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Full text of "SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN'S PREMARITAL SEXUALITY AMONG FEMALE TURKISH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS"

TOWSON UNIVERSITY 
COLLEGE OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH 
SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN'S PREMARITAL 
SEXUALITY AMONG FEMALE TURKISH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS 
By 
Mehmet AUf Ergiin 
A thesis 
Presented to the faculty 
Of Towson University 
In partial fulfillment 
Of the requirements for the degree 
Master of Science in Women's Studies 
April 2006 
Towson University 
Towson, Maryland 21252 
Ş 2006 by Mehmet AUf Ergfin 
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 
2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc- 
sa/2.5/or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, 
California, 94105, USA. 
TOWSON UNIVERSITY 
COLLEGE OF GRADUATE STUDIES AND RESEARCH 
THESIS APPROVAL PAGE 
This is to certify that the thesis prepared by Mehmet Atif Er_mm, entitled Social 
Determinants of Attitudes towards Women's Premarital Sexuali_ty among Female Turkish 
Universi _ty Students, has been approved by this committee as satisfactory completion of the 
requirement for the degree of Master of Arts or Science in the department of Women's 
Studies. 
Dr. Karen Dugger 
Chair, Thesis Committee 
Date 
Dr. Joan Rabin 
Committee Member 
Date 
Dr. Cecilio Rio 
Committee Member 
Date 
Dean, College of Graduate Studies and Research 
Date 
To mom, dad, and Emek 
iv 
ABSTRACT 
SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS WOMEN'S PREMARITAL 
SEXUALITY AMONG FEMALE TURKISH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS 
Mehmet Atf Ergfin 
The current research explores the effects of background and attitudinal and behavioral 
variables on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality in a sample of 277 
undergraduate female students at Istanbul University, Turkey. Among background variables, 
mother's education, age, ethnicity, and employment status were found to be better 
predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. For participants who never had 
sex, mother's education and ethnicity were better predictors. Of all variables, sexual 
attitudes best predicted the dependent variable. Once sexual attitudes was excluded from 
the equation, personal and political religiosity and political participation were better 
predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. When background and 
attitudinal and behavioral variables were combined, personal religiosity and mother's 
educational background were the best predictors. 
v 
Table of Contents 
List of Tables .............................................................................................................. ix 
Introduction ................................................................................................................ 1 
Literature Review ....................................................................................................... 4 
Social Control and Sexual Development ................................................................ 5 
Frameworks on Attitudes toward Premarital Sexuality ........................................ 15 
Relationship Reasoning ................................................................................... 15 
The Socialization Model .................................................................................. 17 
Premarital Sexual Standards ............................................................................ 18 
The Theory on Courtship, Family, and Premarital Sexuality ........................... 19 
Social Determinants of Premarital Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors ..................... 21 
Time Period ..................................................................................................... 21 
Modernization ................................................................................................. 24 
Region ............................................................................................................. 27 
Religion ........................................................................................................... 29 
Age .................................................................................................................. 37 
Personal Attitudes, Beliefs, and Intentions ...................................................... 38 
Dating behavior ............................................................................................... 39 
Prior sexual experience .................................................................................... 40 
Parents ............................................................................................................. 41 
Peers ................................................................................................................ 43 
Educational Environment ................................................................................ 44 
Social Class ..................................................................................................... 44 
Summary ......................................................................................................... 45 
Premarital Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors in the Turkish Context ..................... 46 
Islam and Women's Sexuality .......................................................................... 47 
Virginity and Women's Premarital Sexuality in Turkey .................................... 49 
A Statistical Picture of Women's Premarital Sexuality in Turkey .................... 53 
Summary ......................................................................................................... 60 
Research Questions .............................................................................................. 60 
Methodology ............................................................................................................ 62 
Data Collection .................................................................................................... 62 
Demographics ...................................................................................................... 63 
Construction of the Attitudinal and Behavioral Variables .................................... 64 
Political Participation, Denomination, and Attitudes ....................................... 68 
Religiosity ........................................................................................................ 69 
Sexism ............................................................................................................. 70 
Sexual Practices .............................................................................................. 71 
Sexual Attitudes and Attitudes towards Premarital Sexuality ........................ 72 
Results ...................................................................................................................... 73 
Descriptive Statistics of Participants' Background Variables ............................... 73 
Regression Analyses ............................................................................................. 77 
Relationships between Background Variables and Attitudes toward Women's 
Premarital Sexuality ....................................................................................... 77 
Relationships between Attitudinal and Behavioral Variables and Attitudes toward 
Women's Premarital Sexuality ......................................................................... 80 
Relationships between Attitudinal and Behavioral Variables, Background Variables, 
and Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality ....................................... 84 
Conclusions and Discussion ...................................................................................... 90 
Background Variables .......................................................................................... 90 
Attitudinal and Behavioral Variables .................................................................... 93 
Background and Attitudinal and Behavioral Variables ......................................... 97 
Limitations of the Research .................................................................................. 98 
Practical and Policy Implications ......................................................................... 99 
Appendix A- Turkish Survey ................................................................................. 103 
Appendix B - English Survey ................................................................................. 115 
Appendix C - l.f). Department Letter .................................................................... 127 
Bibliography ............................................................................................................ 128 
Curriculum Vitae ..................................................................................................... 149 
List of Tables 
Table 1. Factor Analyses of Atfitudinal and Behavioral Variables ......................................... 66 
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics of Participants' Demographics .............................................. 73 
Table 3. Frequencies on Selected Demographic Variables .................................................... 75 
Table 4. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Background 
Variables ................................................................................................................ 78 
Table 5. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Background 
Variables for Respondents with No Prior Sexual Experience ............................... 79 
Table 6. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal 
Variables ................................................................................................................ 81 
Table 7. Regression of Attitudes Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes ................................................. 82 
Table 8. Regression of Attitudes Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes for Participants who had Prior 
Sexual Experience ................................................................................................. 83 
Table 9. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables and Background Variables ................................................... 85 
Table 10. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables and Background Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes ....... 87 
Table 11. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables and Background Variables for Respondents with Prior 
Sexual Experience Excluding Sexual Attitudes .................................................... 89 
Introduction 
Premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors were a popular area of research, 
particularly from the 1960's in the United States until the early 1980's, and continuing into 
the present. Consequently, American researchers identified several variables that were 
related to premarital attitudes. The research during that era was extensive. 
In comparison to American researchers who have done extensive research on human 
sexuality and on premarital sexual attitudes, Turkish scientific inquiry is marked by silence. 
There are few research studies conducted on sexual practices and attitudes in Turkey. To 
address this absence, this study proposes to explore the determinants of premarital sexual 
attitudes. One such determinant, religiosity is particularly important given the social control 
function of religion in Turkish society. Premarital sex is a valuable means through which 
women develop their sexuality in practical terms. That is, premarital sex provides important 
practical tools of sexual education for women during their sexual development. In 
contemporary Turkey, however, women who engage in premarital sexuality experience 
informal sanctions (Sakalli-Ugurlu and Glick, 2003), to say the least. As such, Turkish 
culture, similar to many other cultures, inhibits sexual experimentation and practice prior to 
marriage (which is constructed as the benchmark of permitted sexual activity). 
The development of sexuality progresses from birth to death. Premarital sexuality is 
a key element of this development. Ideally, in later adolescence, the individual comes up 
with a stable sense of her/his self, or feels in conflict about gender roles, thus developing 
her/his gender identity, which is an important aspect of the individual (DeLamater, 2002). In 
2 
addition, a sexual identity (e.g. homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality etc.) emerges in 
terms of attraction to others. Moreover, managing the physical and emotional intimacy in 
relationships is leamed during adolescence (DeLamater, 2002). 
However, in a society where premarital sexuality is prohibited by religious, social, 
and even personal norms and rules, sex-play/practice is absent. Consequently, the sexual 
development is rendered 'theoretical' instead of practice-based. The prohibition of premarital 
sexuality blocks many of the physical aspects of this developmental process, leaving 
especially women sexually underdeveloped until marriage. The sexual and gender identities 
developed during adolescence are theoretical in real life in the absence of relevant practice. 
As premarital prohibitions restrict sex-play/practice during adolescence, marriage becomes 
the major arena where one can practically experience sexuality. 
Marriage, particularly in Turkey on the other hand, is inherently a controlled 
patriarchal environment. It confines a woman to a state-enforced monogamous relationship 
with a man, in which only one sexual object and a limited number of sexual experiences are 
possible. Moreover, marriage still seems partly to be a means for women to attain 
respectability and status within society under the control of men, instead of mental and 
physical gratification with a parmer. Although women might attempt to take control of their 
reproductive health, the patriarchal control over their sexuality goes unchallenged during 
marriage on an institutional level. Consequently, as Thapan (2003) suggests, the body 
regresses into a means of survival, instead of becoming a means of pleasure. 
The current research is a descriptive analysis of a Turkish population's premarital 
3 
sexual attitudes and behaviors. It explores the effects of background and attitudinal 
variables on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. The background variables 
investigated in this research include age, sexual orientation, city of birth, ethnicity, total 
monthly income, number of children, residential parmer, employment status, social class, 
mother's educational background, and father's educational background. The attitudinal and 
behavioral variables include political participation, political denomination, interest in 
politics, attitudes toward social regulation, personal and political religiosity, modem and 
old-fashion sexism, attitudes toward unpaid labor, attitudes toward women's organizations, 
sex life quality, and sexual attitudes. 
4 
Literature Review 
This literature review is in five sections: social control and sexual development, 
frameworks on attitudes toward premarital sexuality, social and personal determinants of 
premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors, and premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors in 
the Turkish context. The studies used in the in this literature review are based on American 
populations, unless otherwise noted. 
Because socialization has long been a tool to control women's sexuality and shapes 
sexual attitudes and behavior, the first section discusses the effects of culture and its various 
elements on children's, adolescents', and adults' attitudes towards sexuality and their sexual 
activities. Hence the goal is to provide an overview of how patriarchal culture inhibits 
sexual experimentation and practice prior to marriage (which is constructed as the 
benchmark of allowed sexual activity), which might otherwise have provided important 
tools of sexual education for women during their sexual development. 
The second section will discuss frameworks on premarital sexual attitudes such as 
the relationship reasoning model, the socialization model, the four major standards of 
premarital sexuality, and the theory on courtship, family institutions and premarital 
sexuality. 
The third section examines previous research in terms of social determinants of 
premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors while the fourth section investigates personal 
determinants. 
The Fifth and final section will focus on the Turkish context and will shift emphasis 
5 
to Islam and the concept of virginity, as these elements seem to play a rather important role 
in women's premarital sexual lives in Turkey. Sex research conducted in Turkey will also be 
examined. 
Social Control And Sexual Development 
Socialization has long been a major factor in the societal control of various aspects 
of sexuality. Individuals learn norms, information, and behaviors relevant to sexual activity 
during their development (DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979; Reiss, 1967), from 
childhood to late adolescence (DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979). Through 
socialization, individuals inherit a set of norms that act as the basis of self-control over 
sexual activity, including premarital sexuality. This section will discuss how culture and its 
various elements affect children's, adolescents', and adults' developing sexual attitudes and 
behaviors. 
Women don't automatically become sexual at puberty or after marriage (Freud, 
[1962] 2000). Learning about sexuality is a lifelong process (Kirkpatrick, 1984) that starts 
from birth. There is little research about the sexual development and expression of children 
or the problems they experience during their attempts to understand their sexual feelings 
and experiences (Daniluck, 1998). Children are sexual beings and will exhibit a broad range 
of sexual behavior (Freud, [1962] 2000; Friedrich, 2003) and their sexual behavior becomes 
increasingly diverse over time (Friedrich, 2003). 
It seems one can assume that children's first source of sexual information is their 
own and others' bodies. As Daniluck (1998) argues, preschool children like to be nude and 
6 
are very interested in their own nudity as well as other children's and adults'. They are also 
likely to touch and rub their own genitals as the pleasurable sensations will commonly be 
discovered when different body parts are touched and rubbed (Daniluck, 1998; Kirkpatrick, 
1984). Sex play in non-sexual contexts such as playing doctor-patient contributes to 
children's leaming of sexuality (Gagnon and Simon, 1973), during which, others' body 
gestures carry the messages about what degree of sexual intimacy is appropriate and 
acceptable (Kirkpatrick, 1984). Children's own physical affection and the reactions of others 
to such affection influence their future comfort with their own body, desirability, and 
sexuality, which in tum affects how the child demonstrate his/her feelings (Kirkpatrick, 
1984). It is also common for young school age children to explore their own genitals and 
have acute interest in the bodies and the actions of their peers (Daniluck, 1998). 
Related to the child's attempts to discover sexuality, the family, which is believed to 
be the strongest of the environmental factors that influence a child's early development, is 
crucial to sexual development. The family functions as an advocate and enforcer of sexual 
norms. Forms of sexuality that are not controlled by the family may be chastised, socially 
punished or even punished under the law (Duggan and Hunter, 1995). Society, thus, is 
anxious to ban or demonize the anomaly of unsanctioned sexuality through the family 
(Duggan and Hunter, 1995). In Kirkpatrick's (1984) terms, when children's explorations 
result in negative and angry disapproval from the environment, this influences the sexual 
learning of the child: The child leams what should and should not be touched. These 
responses become the basis for the child's feelings of pleasure and guilt about her future 
7 
sexual body and activity in the adolescent years and on. 
Adult activity in regard to the child's acts depends on adults' conceptualization of 
these acts. The responses to these actions such as words and displays vary. The adults either 
label them as sexual and demonize them, or they deliberately describe them as non-sexual, 
or simply ignore them (Gagnon and Simon, 1973). Although the child's sexual words and 
displays are not pathological, they are commonly treated as such (Ehrhardt, 1994). As 
Ehrhardt observes, for example, parents give out confusing responses to their child's sexual 
behavior such as "you should do it in the dark" (p. 128) or "it is private and you shouldn't 
talk about it" (p. 128). Commonly referred to as the "abuse perspective" (p. 128), lots of 
healthy behaviors of the child get flagged as either typical behaviors of an abused child 
(Ehrhardt, 1994) or as abnormalities of the child herself. For instance, early masturbation is 
commonly considered an abnormal behavior for both boys and girls. However, there is no 
support for the idea that early masturbation results in over-sexualization of the child 
(Bancroft et al., 2003). To the contrary, there is a link between early-onset masturbation and 
more positive sexual experiences in adolescence and early adulthood (Bancroft et al., 2003). 
Very few American parents provide their children with sufficient, correct, and 
meaningful information about sex (Daniluck, 1998). The situation is not different in Turkey 
(Inandi et al., 2003; Koral, 1991). The parents function as the society's norm enforcer 
(Duggan and Hunter, 1995). They are limited by the social world they occupy. As such, 
their influence on their children is restricted by repressive rules and norms of that social 
world, where the social communication related to children's and especially girls' sexuality is 
often confusing (Daniluck, 1998). As Daniluck argues, young girls risk becoming 
dissociated from their body parts commonly associated with sexuality. Parents' use of 
language, which lacks a powerful and affirmative emphasis, further complicates this picture 
as common sexuality-related words convey mystery and disconnection, such as "down 
there". This process disconnects girls from the pleasure and enjoyment embedded in their 
body and sexuality. For instance, for a girl who is growing in a repressed family where sex is 
taboo and who has little opportunity to express, ask, and team, it is possible either to 
repress her sexuality, or to become more and more interested in sexuality, as if it were a 
forbidden fruit (Daniluck, 1998). In both cases, the tabooing of her body and sexuality, as 
Danituck argues, may resttit in a sexual self that is built upon guilt and shame. 
Sexuality begins before adolescence and adolescents may already have experienced 
some of its advanced stages such as masturbation and orgasm (Gagnon and Simon, 1973) in 
their youth. According to a study conducted by Reynolds et. at. (2003) in Indiana University 
in 1998-1999 with a large group of undergraduate students between 18 and 22 years of age, 
84.4% of the females had sexual experiences with peers prior to high school. These 
experiences involved advanced sexual behaviors even before elementary school, although 
they were rare. These experiences became more advanced and frequent with time. 
Regardless of prior experience, the onset of puberty and menstruation is an 
important stage in a girl's sexual development (Daniluck, 1998). Menstruation can be an 
opportunity for the family and the school to teach girls about their bodily functions, 
although this is usually done while disconnecting such information from sexual education 
9 
deemed socially inappropriate (Daniluck, 1998). The common tasks for an adolescent girl 
include integrating physical changes to bodily feelings and to her old self-image, starting to 
develop her identity and body image, and beginning to identify her sexual orientation by 
examining her sexual experiments and by evaluating to whom she usually is sexually 
attracted (Daniluck, 1998). Her family and the more direct effect of the social environment 
that surrounds the family and the girl mark this stage in her life. For example, according to 
Bates et. al. (2003), sexual activity in adolescents is related to a cluster of rebellious, 
externalizing, problematic behaviors, including negative interactions with the direct social 
environment that the adolescent is in, such as conflicts with teachers, parents, and peers. 
Their study seems to suggest that a girl's better adaptation to a culture where sexuality is 
conceptualized as pathological, predictably results in less sexual activity. 
Some parents' disposition not to talk about their children's sexuality-related bodily 
functions may lead to a situation where the parents do not teach the teenager about her 
body parts, especially the genitals (Daniluck, 1998). "... women's uncertainty about their 
genitals and the workings of their own bodies seems to create an inhibiting insecurity" 
(Daniluck, 1998, p. 32). Peer messages during menstruation are also significant as most 
girls tum to their same sex friends for guidance as information coming from their parents is 
scarce. 
Girls initially share their sexual activity with peers (Ussher, 1997). However, as 
Ussher observes, even memories and dreams of sharing such experiences invokes feelings of 
moral inadequacy, guilt, disgust, and anxiety. The reoccurring pattem of guilt and shame 
10 
suggests that, as Tulman (1994) observes, the communication of sexual desires in girls 
lessens as a means to avoid others' disapproval and thus a lapse in their connection with the 
outside world. This cycle reduces their probability of obtaining sexually relevant 
information. 
Although silence may be a common defense against social stigmatization in 
adolescent girls, well-informed peers can greatly help girls normalize the learning process. 
However, the negative effect of the lack of information from dependable sources and the 
implicit message in the media and in religion that girls and women should be protected from 
being dirty, smelly, and unpleasant during menstruation inescapably complicates this 
important stage in a girls sexual development (Daniluck, 1998). 
Media has an important role in girls' sexual development as well. Adolescents use 
mass media as a source for learning about sex and about body image norms (Gagnon and 
Simon, 1973), and they tend to choose highly sexual content over neutral ones (Durham, 
2004). As such, in general, they tend to be vulnerable to patriarchal media images: media 
representations of femininity seem to be confining, unreasonable, and focused on a logically 
unattainable physical beauty (Durham 2004). Although there is litfie research on the effect 
of this source on girls' sexual development, Durham (2004) sheds some light on how sexual 
development is affected by the media. According to Durham's study, on their own, girls may 
be somewhat critical towards the media content. However, the dynamics of their peer 
groups may force them to inhibit the critical nature of their take on the content. Peer groups 
use media content extensively as a training "opportunity" to learn ideal femininity. Because 
11 
peer acceptance is very important in girls' culture and because media is used by their peer 
groups to shape their commonly held beliefs about sexuality, deviance from the media 
images may result in judgments of abnormality (Gagnon and Simon, 1973). In other words, 
girls who do not conform to the ideal feminine images depicted by the media will risk being 
castaways. 
As a woman matures and becomes adult, the society's control over her body and 
sexuality through the family, school, and peers seems to shift to a more direct control 
through the patriarchal capitalist state and its applicable policies, laws, and institutions such 
as science, medicine, and intemational power agencies. These male dominated sources of 
power reinforce the historical and cultural imposition that "... the role of women in sex, as 
in every other aspect of life, has been to serve others - men and children." (Hite, 2004, p. 
335). For example, as Foucault (1990) argues, unorthodox sexualities that allowed for 
women's sexual pleasure are transformed into scientific language for a better control over 
them. "... all the possible deviations were carefully described ..." (Foucault, p. 36) for the 
more efficient management of these deviations to be possible (Foucault, 1990; Ussher, 
1997). Such management of deviance allowed the "normal" society to proliferate patriarchal 
heterosexual procreative monogamy (Ussher, 1997). 
Another illustration of the above mentioned shift comes from De Grazia (1992), 
who extensively studies the effects of a fascist state on women's sexuality in Italy. The 
oppressive nature of a fascist state is strongly related to the contemporary politics of 
Turkey, which experienced fascist coups in its history and which is currently led by an 
12 
Islamist fundamentalist party, disguised under a liberal Islamic discourse unlike its 
predecessors (see Mecham, 2004; Tank, 2005; Atacan, 2005). 
De Grazia (1992) argues that women in Italy were chosen as the antagonist of the 
state and were the target of court rulings and obscenity laws. Their sexual behavior was 
seen as more harmful than that of men's, and thus they were punished more severely in 
sexual offense cases. In the meantime, the inaccessibility of sexual information, i.e. the "sex 
black-out" (p. 56), was used by the state as a means to restrict birth control. Women did not 
know about menstruation until it first occurred and they knew very little about sexuality 
until their first night of the marriage. Premarital intimacy was almost impossible because 
there was litfie probability of successfully escaping from the fascist surveillance system that 
included friends and neighbors. Sexuality was not thought in classes. Educational material 
available through translations were aggressive against extra/premarital intercourse, sexual 
trial and error, divorce, and birth control. Marriage was used as the means to control the 
perceived dangerous and risky nature of women's sexual freedom. Through the repressive 
processes of the fascist state, women's sexuality fell prey to the Victorian positivist scientific 
view that sexual deviation in women led to illnesses and physical abnormalities. For 
example, "... masturbation produced tuberculosis, impotence, and sometimes fatal cases of 
peritonitis. Lipstick led to lip cancer, and casual physical contacts, such as occurred in 
kissing, bred disease." (p. 137). 
The above mentioned shift of control does not only occur on the local/national level. 
Imperialist entities play an important role in this new hegemony as well. Turkey has long 
13 
been the target of Western nations for modernization. Both in Turkey and in these nations, 
the common conceptualization of the modernization process predicts that the target nation 
and its citizens (men and women) will inescapably benefit from this process. This is not 
always the case. Greenstreet and Banibensu (1997) inform us that, with the introduction of 
modernization, traditional sexual practices that had a relatively positive effect on women's 
sexuality in Ghana became obsolete and the strong bond between the three generations of 
women (grandmothers, mothers, and daughters) weakened. The sexual knowledge transfer 
shifted from a level of explicit sexual instructions to a level of moralizing and socializing. 
Although the modernist elements introduced to the culture rendered young girls more 
independent from their grandmothers and mothers, its patriarchal nature also prevented 
them from reaching adequate levels of sexual education as their access to sexual information 
was severed. According to Harcourt (1997), as a result of the effect of imperialism in 
Ghanaian villages, girls were not well informed on their bodies and sexuality. Young women 
were silenced about sexual practices and had almost no control over their sexuality. 
Unmarried women were kept away from sexual knowledge as their ignorance symbolized 
their chastity, which increased their chance for marriage. Through the interaction of the 
society's traditional and modem elements and the disruption of the generational 
transportation of traditional knowledge, sexual pleasure and control was denied from 
women. 
In brief, as mentioned above, sexual learning is a lifelong ongoing process 
(Kirkpatrick, 1984), during which women are greatly restricted in their attempts to sexually 
14 
develop. During this process, children's initial source of sexual information is their own and 
others' bodies. Self-exploration and sex play contributes to children's leaming of sexuality 
(Gagnon and Simon, 1973). Their physical affection and the reactions of others to such 
affection influence the child's future comfort with her body, desirability, and sexuality, which 
in tum affect the way they demonstrate their feelings (Kirkpatrick, 1984). As children 
attempt to discover sexuality, the family, which functions as an advocate and enforcer of 
sexual norms, is a crucial layer in the sexual development of children. Because the parents 
function as the society's norm enforcer (Duggan and Hunter, 1995) and because they are the 
social products of their social worlds, their influence on their children is limited by the their 
society's repressive rules and norms (Daniluck, 1998). 
Despite the fact that sexuality begins before adolescence and adolescents may 
already have experienced some of its advanced stages such as masturbation and orgasm 
(Gagnon and Simon, 1973), the onset of puberty and menstruation is an important stage in a 
girl's sexual development (Daniluck, 1998). Media images are effective especially in this 
stage. As a woman matures and becomes adult, the society's control over her body and 
sexuality shifts to a more direct control through the patriarchal capitalist state and its 
applicable laws and institutions such as science, medicine, and intemational policies. During 
adulthood, local laws, the tendencies in capitalist states to practice fascist-like activities, and 
the modernization policies that are imposed on societies as a condition for much needed 
financial aid play a crucial role in women's sexual lives. 
In every stage of one's sexual development, the effect of the patriarchal society is 
15 
evident. It is thus not surprising to see how women's sexual development is constructed 
around male interests. Premarital sexuality, another venue to practice sex, is no exception. 
Frameworks On Attitudes Toward Premarital Sexuali _ty 
Relationship Reasoning 
D'Augelli and D'Augelli (1977) investigated the relationship between sex guilt, 
sexual philosophies, moral development, and premarital sexual permissiveness; and 
proposed a stage model of"relationship reasoning" by relating premarital sexual behavior to 
Kohlberg's (1969, 1976, in D'Augelli and D'Augelli, 1997) developmental stages of moral 
reasoning: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. The reasoning develops 
from being more concrete and focused on meeting one's own needs towards being more 
abstract, focused on values of trust and mutuality in social contracts (Kohlberg's Stages of 
Development, Wikipedia). 
According to their research, couples' sex experience with each other was a predictor 
for both partners' sex guilt, which increased with moral development stage of the 
respondents. They reported that higher reasoning development was also correlated with 
permissive attitudes towards sexuality: students who favored abstinence had the lowest 
moral reasoning development, compared to students who favored a double standard and 
permissiveness with affection. 
Moreover, they found that sex guilt, sexual philosophy, and moral development 
were related in some ways: sexual philosophies that favored virginity were positively 
correlated with higher moral development. Sex guilt was also related to sexual philosophy 
16 
such that liberal sexual philosophies tended to positively correlate with less sex guilt. 
On the basis of the above findings, D'Augelli and D'Augelli (1977) argued that one's 
decisions about engaging in a sexual behavior might start at an interpersonal level as the 
sexual act occurs with someone else: two individuals are bound to make a mutual decision 
as to which sexual behavior are acceptable and doable. The authors claimed that the focus 
on the interpersonal environment of the individual should be investigated more closely. 
D'Augelli and D'Augelli (1977) defined "relationship reasoning" as "a cognitive 
dispositional variable similar to moral reasoning .... relationship reasoning is involved at 
decision-making points in which the individual or dyad is confronted with choices as to the 
nature and quality of the relationship. These points concern change within relationship, 
whether towards initiation, enhancement, or dissolution .... Most critically, relationship 
reasoning is applied to situations in which relationships of possible durability are involved." 
(pp. 61 - 62). 
Three levels of reasoning were proposed: "egoistic reasoning" (decisions are based 
essentially on cost-reward analysis, costs and rewards emerge from the parmer, the optimal 
relationship offers instant gratification), "dyadic reasoning" (decisions are based on 
expectations of the parmer, the other's view is the central point in one's decision making, 
optimal relationship fulfills the parmer's expectations), and "interactive reasoning" 
(relationship decisions are based on the couple's consensus, optimal relationship allows 
creation of"dyadic-specific norms"). These reasoning stages, contrary to the accepted stage 
model (Kohlberg's Stages of Development, Wikipedia), were used relative to the context of 
17 
the relationship: according to the model, individuals were allowed to regress to a previous 
stage if the relationship context required them to do so. 
In brief, according to the authors, sexual decision-making, a crucial element of 
premarital sex, "is structured by the relationship reasoning of the parmers and is given 
content by sexual philosophy and moral reasoning" (p. 64). However, although sexual 
satisfaction with the parmer was among variables of the current research, it should be noted 
that the effects of relationship development and moral development on attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality was not a focus in the current research. 
The Socialization Model 
DeLamater and MacCorquodale (1979) focused on the causal relationship between 
sexual behaviors and prevalent norms and rules in relation to the individual's sexual 
developmental process. They argued that one's own attitudes and beliefs are the results of 
one's socialization. They proposed three factors as determinants of premarital sexual 
attitudes: "ideology", which includes parental characteristics (e.g. parental sexual 
permissiveness, parental sex education), sources of moral information (e.g. mothers, female 
friends for women), and respondent's characteristics (e.g. social desirability, self-esteem, 
body image, gender roles); "social influences", which includes involvement in religious 
institutions, religious attendance, religiosity, and marital expectations; and "sexual 
behavior." 
According to DeLamater and MacCorquodale, most of the variables interact with 
each other. For instance, permissiveness of the parents' sexual ideology positively correlated 
18 
with the individual's sexual ideology. Involvement in religious institutions, religious 
attendance, and religiosity negatively correlated with the degree of intimate sexual behavior. 
Age and marital expectations were related to sexual behavior such that older individuals and 
those planning to marry had more probability of engaging in sexual behavior. Perceived 
social desirability and one's perceived physical attractiveness were positively correlated with 
sexual activity. Present sexual activity was associated with the number of sexual activities 
friends were involved in. Larger incident of sexual activity of best friends was associated 
with more intimate current sexual activities. Participants involved in emotionally more 
intimate relationships tended to report more intimate sexual activities. Also, the longer the 
relationship was, the more intimate the couple got in terms of sexual activity. 
Premarital Sexual Standards 
According to Reiss (1960), at the time, there were four major premarital sexual 
standards: "abstinence", "permissiveness with affection", "permissiveness without 
affection", and "double standard". Those favoring the abstinence standard believed that sex 
was too important, too valuable, and too intimate to be performed outside the marriage. 
Reiss identified four subtypes for this standard: "petting without affection", "petting with 
affection", "kissing without affection", and "kissing with affection". The questions for the 
dependent variable of the current study were constructed on the basis of Reiss' (1960) 
research on these subtypes (see Appendix A or B). Petting without affection was consistent 
with the belief that physical intimacy with sexually attractive panners was acceptable as 
long as intercourse did not occur. Kissing without affection seemed to be followed by 
19 
teenagers who were too conservative to go beyond kissing. Reiss argued that this was a 
conflict between the fear of loosing one's partner and the fear of going beyond kissing. 
The second standard Reiss identified, permissiveness with affection, was defined by 
the acceptance of intercourse if the partners were having a steady and affectionate 
relationship. The third standard, permissiveness without affection, was marked by a special 
emphasis on physical pleasure. The followers of this standard believed that both parties 
needed to be sexually attracted to each other for intercourse to be acceptable. The fourth 
and final standard, double standard, was identified by Reiss as the oldest premarital sexual 
standard closely related to religions. Its followers did not necessarily perceive this standard 
to be rightful, but acceptable and permissible. The core of this standard, according to Reiss, 
was the belief that women were inferior and were objectified through marriage or 
fatherhood. Double standard allowed sexual freedom to men but not to women. "Non- 
virgin" (p. 101) women were condemned as stigmatized, bad, evil, and disliked. The 
"virginal" (p. 101) women were, to the contrary, pure. Findings indicate that the double 
standard is still a strong sexual standard in Turkey (Kayar, 2005; Erkmen, 1990; 
Ilkkaracan, 2000). 
The Theory On Courtship, Family, And Premarital Sexuality 
Another contribution of Reiss (1967) was a more specific theory on the 
determinants of premarital sexual attitudes following a study with 2734 participants from 6 
different colleges (N = 1219) and from a national adult sample (N = 1515). Reiss' findings 
were dominated by strong and significant racial differences. Blacks tended to be more 
20 
permissive than whites even when controlling for social class while there was almost no 
relationship between social class and premarital sexual permissiveness. Racial differences 
were slightly stronger in the adult sample when compared to the college sample. 
Reiss' other findings included the following: the bigger cities (over 100,000 
population) tended to positively relate to permissiveness; participants from urban areas 
tended to be more permissive; the South, the most rural region in the U.S. at that time, 
appeared to be the lowest in permissiveness; those who dated more regularly tended to be 
more permissive; the number of steady dates and the number of love relationships were 
positively correlated with permissive attitudes; those who never changed their standards 
over time tended less permissive; and most of the participants perceived their peers' 
standards as similar to theirs. 
On the basis of his findings, Reiss proposed the following theory: 
"The courtship and family institutions are two key, direct determinants 
of the norms regarding premarital sexual permissiveness. The sexual norms of 
the courtship institution will reflect the basic values of the family institution 
relevant to sexuality. However, when participant-run, the courtship institution 
tends to normatively differentiate from the family institution and to react more 
to the permissive pressures of the courtship role and therefore to have 
relatively high permissive premarital norms. The biological sex drive pressures 
the individual toward more permissiveness when outside controls are weak. 
Due to the female's closer ties to the family institution, such differentiation 
tends to be different and less complete for her than for the male. The family 
institution, with its emphasis on the role of parental responsibility, tends to 
react less favorably to permissive courtship pressures, and thus the basic 
values inculcated by the family do help limit eventual permissiveness. Societal 
forces affect individual permissiveness in a group, both through pressures 
from other courtship and family groups with different permissive norms and 
through pressures of other institutions, tending to encourage or discourage 
the autonomy of the participant-run courtship system and the independence of 
21 
thought of the young people themselves. In addition, the basic norms of these 
other institutions help define the range of acceptable sexuality and thereby 
help shape the ways in which sexual permissiveness will express itself when 
courtship autonomy is high. The basic tendency in a participant-run system is 
for the participant, due to his role position, to increase his permissiveness 
during courtship and to somewhat reverse his views after marriage and 
parenthood." (pp. 166 - 167) 
Social Determinants Of Premarital Sexual Attitudes And Behaviors 
Social norms and rules regarding sexuality seems to have a deep effect on 
individuals' attitudes towards premarital sexuality. As noted earlier, Reiss (1967) 
categorized four standards for the acceptability of premarital sex, which seemed to be the 
popular social norms regarding premarital sex in the U.S. in 1960s. These norms are still 
observable in the U.S. as well as in Turkey. Especially for women, social criticism, 
stigmatization, social punishment, lowered reputation, sex guilt due to intemalized values of 
chastity and virginity, and loss of some power seem to be some of the risks of engaging in 
premarital sex. A key characteristic of these social norms is that they are not stable: they 
change with time, region, and extemal or intemal attempts of modernization. 
Time Period 
Time is an important factor when one investigates social norms. A number of studies 
show that premarital sexual standards tend to become more liberal and more egalitarian 
between sexes over time, although there are some fluctuations. Alston and Tucker (1973), 
using a 1969 representative sample of 1196 white American adults, concluded that most 
participants (80%) felt premarital sex was wrong. In comparison, Croake and James (1973) 
compared premarital sexual attitudes between 1968 and 1972, and argued that college 
22 
students held more liberal attitudes in 1972 compared to 1968. With a sample of 2453 
undergraduates from 4 geographical areas of the U.S., Lewis and Burr (1975) identified a 
pattern of "permissiveness with commitment". Bauman and Wilson's (1976) longitudinal 
study compared two samples from one university campus. The sample in 1972 (107 males 
and 68 females) tended to be more permissive and showed less gender differences compared 
to the sample in 1968 (98 males and 88 females). King et. al. (1977) compared data from 
1965, 1970, and 1975 from a total of 975 undergraduates. They argued that the premarital 
sexual revolution, which was said to start in 1960s, had accelerated in 1970s. They 
explained their results by referring to a more insfitufionalized youth counter-culture on 
college campuses as well as to the women's movement. 
Singh (1980) compared data from five U.S. national surveys (1972, 1974, 1975, 
1977, and 1978) and found a declining influence of factors such as social class, sex, and 
race, while age and religion appeared to be consistent factors affecting premarital sexual 
attitudes across time. Keller's 1982 study suggested, similarly to studies cited above, that 
males and females were moving towards a more equal standard regarding premarital sex. 
Robinson (1982) replicated a survey by Robinson et. al. (1968, 1972, in Robinson, 1982) 
with 399 college students. The author identified a pattem of"sexual contradiction" (p. 240) 
where participants who reported more restrictive sexual standards had higher levels of 
premarital sexual behaviors compared to other studies in their literature review. The author 
concluded that reported premarital sexual behavior tended to increase among both males 
and females. There were also fewer differences in attitudes and behavior between genders. 
23 
Some participants from both sexes had a new premarital sexual standard where they 
imposed stricter rules on the opposite sex and more liberal rules on their own sex. Earle and 
Perricone (1986) compared surveys from 793 undergraduates taken in 1970, 1975, and 
1981. They identified significant increases in rates of premarital sex, significant decreases in 
average age of first intercourse, and significant increases in average number ofparmers over 
time. They also found that although a double standard between genders still existed, the 
difference was more evident in attitudes rather than in behavior. 
In a 36 years longitudinal study on Czechoslovak gynecological patients who had 
post-treatment conditions following gynecological treatments, Raboch (1989) found that 
the average age at first intercourse dropped by 2.95 years from participants bom between 
1911 and 1920 to participants born between 1961 and 1970. They also found that between 
1921 and 1970, the number of participants who had premarital sex increased from 1% to 
12%. Harding (2003) similarly identified a sharp increase in liberal attitudes toward 
premarital sex between 1969 and 1973, although those over 30 years of age were generally 
more conservative than those younger. 
Wells and Twenge (2005) conducted a meta-analysis of 530 studies with a total of 
269,649 participants to investigate changes in young people's sexual behavior and attitudes. 
They found that sexual attitudes and behavior change significantly between 1943 and 1999, 
especially among women. Both genders became sexually more active as the age of first 
intercourse decreased from 19 to 15 in women. The percentage of sexually active women 
also increased from 13% to 47%. In addition, premarital sexual attitudes became more 
24 
liberal as rates of approvel increased from 12% to 73% among women. 
Michaels and Giami (1999) compared six surveys between the years of 1948 and 
1994. They concluded that even scientists' attitudes were becoming more liberal. In earlier 
surveys, researchers associated heterosexual intercourse to the institution of marriage. In 
1970s, there was a greater tendency to unlink these two, as various types of nonmarital 
relationships became more visible (such as nonmarital cohabitation and non-cohabitational 
relationships). Michaels and Giami concluded that the link between sexual acts and sexual 
relationships were not intrinsically linked to each other anymore. 
However, it should be noted that, contrary to above findings, Roche and Rambsey 
(1993) found that their 1988 female sample had lower levels of sexual intercourse and a 
conservative change of attitudes due to increased knowledge of AIDS from 1983 to 1988, 
although attitudinal change was more common than actual behavior change. 
Modernization 
Related to both time period and region, external and internal attempts of 
modernization seems to play an important role in the determination of attitudes towards 
premarital sexuality. Modernization may have an effect people through immigration, or 
through either a nailon's (or more commonly, a group of nations') imposition of modernism 
on another nation, or a nailon's internal attempts to "modernize" itself. For the purposes of 
this study, I oversimplified modernization by defining it as the imposition of North-Westem 
industrialized nations' common social rules and norms on other nations through cultural 
imperialism. 
25 
Investigating the effects of immigration, Hojat et. al. (1999) compared 160 Iranian 
immigrants in the U.S. to 97 Iranians in Iran. Their findings revealed that those who were 
exposed to the American culture, especially women, were more permissive towards 
premarital sex as compared to Iranians in Iran. Hendrickx et. al. (2002) examined the 
challenges presented by a modem society and the influences of the cultural and social 
backgrounds among young Moroccan Islamic immigrants to Belgium. Their participants (N 
= 55, 27 boys and 28 girls) were second generation immigrants between 15 and 21 years of 
age, unmarried, and from Berber or Arabic speaking families. They found their participants 
tended to be minimally influenced by the social environment they found themselves in. 
Almost all the boys wanted to marry a woman with no prior sexual experience. They tended 
to look down on Muslim girls who did not hold to this standard. Among girls, who were 
aware that most Moroccan men wanted a bride who did not have any premarital sexual 
experience, premarital sexuality was similarly unacceptable. Girls' contact with boys was 
minimal and was kept in extreme secrecy. Although petting was more or less allowed, 
intercourse was avoided except for some girls who, according to the authors, allowed it in 
order not to loose their boyfriends. Among girls, premarital sex was associated with fears of 
being "discovered" as being a virgin in the first night of marriage, and related negative 
social consequences of such discovery. 
Smith (2001), after finding that prevalence of premarital sexual relations are 
significantly increasing in Nigeria, speculated that increased age of marriage and higher 
levels of urban migration played an important role in changing premarital sexual attitudes. 
26 
To the author, sexual relationships were defined simultaneously as an appropriate 
expression of intimacy and as a statement of modem identity. 
Bennett (2005), investigating contemporary Indonesia, identified the availability of 
public and private transport, modem meeting places such as malls and touristic destinations, 
and the resulting absence of parental supervision and relative privacy as critical modernist 
influences contributing to higher rates of premarital sexual behaviors. Although the public 
pressure against premarital sex still existed, the probability of having opportunities of covert 
sexual behaviors was higher. In this context, Bennett argued that female peer groups and 
sisters functioned as social support networks and confidants of women who engaged in 
premarital sex, while male relatives and brothers acted as control agents and the police of 
women's "honor" and "reputation", similar to the general society and the parents. 
Discussing the nature of premarital relationships, Bennett also pointed out that some 
feminist researchers identified premarital sex as a form of"indirect or unconscious 
resistance" (p. 80) to the patriarchal system. While the defmition of resistance is 
controversial (i.e. is it possible to "unconsciously" resist?), Bennett argued that "Single 
women can and do simultaneously support the oppressive systems through their silence, 
while subverting and transforming the nature of those systems through private forms of 
resistance" (p. 81). Hence, women in Indonesia found a way, through the common elements 
of modernization, to bend the rules without publicly breaking them, and consequentially 
without disobeying their parents, damaging their respectability, and causing public scrutiny, 
which might otherwise be perceived as common results of one's resistance to culturally 
27 
prominent norms and rules. Through this discourse, Bennett seemed to argue that 
modernization in Indonesia damaged women's opportunities to resist patriarchy while 
simultaneously increasing their chances of escaping social sanctions for their norm violating 
behaviors. 
Region 
Studies seemed to demonstrate significant differences between nations. There 
seemed to be significant variance within various regions of a nation as well. Raschke (1976) 
studied premarital sexual permissiveness among 264 college students in midwest United 
States, 26 students from Hong Kong who were studying in the U.S., and 153 students 
attending colleges and universities in Hong Kong. The study found that students in Hong 
Kong were less permissive and less active, that the majority of determinants of premarital 
permissiveness also held as factors for these students, and that Chinese students studying in 
the U.S. tended to share similar attitudes and behaviors with American students regarding 
premarital sexuality. 
Sprecher and Hatfield (1996) compared attitudes on premarital sex and sexual 
permissiveness among 695 male and 972 female participants from colleges in Russia, U.S., 
and Japan. The study found that American participants were more accepting of premarital 
sex relative to Japanese and Russian participants. Sexual permissiveness was higher for men 
than in women in the U.S. and Russia, but not in Japan. Russian subjects were more likely 
to support the double standard than Japanese and American participants, while American 
men tended to favor double standard early in the premarital relationship. 
28 
Kaufinan et. al. (1996) compared China to the U.S. in terms of teenage sexual 
attitudes. Their findings indicated that Chinese teenagers were low on premarital 
permissiveness, although they were tolerant of those who engaged in premarital sexual 
activity. Close parent-child relationships had different effects on premarital sexual 
permissiveness in China than in the U.S. In China, where family honor was focused on boys, 
parental factors negatively affected boys' premarital permissiveness. In the U.S., where 
parents were focused more on their daughters, the negative effect showed itself on girls' 
premarital permissiveness. 
Gaga (1994) compared sexual activity among never-married women between the 
ages of 15 and 24 from sub-Saharan African nations of Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, 
Liberia, Togo, and Zimbabwe. In most countries, the study found, the majority of unmarried 
participants were sexually active and that increases in sexual behaviors occurred mostly in 
countries where the prevalence of sexual activity was already historically relatively higher. 
Widmer et. al. (1998) compared 24 countries in their prevalent attitudes towards 
nonmarital sex. They singled out the Philippines as an extremely conservative nation, where 
any variation of nonmarital sex, and especially premarital sex was always wrong. The study 
also singled out Japan due to Japanese participants' tendency to allow for exceptions to the 
unacceptability of premarital sex. Other than Japan and Philippines, the study identified four 
major clusters: "teen permissives", "sexual conservatives", homosexual permissives", and 
"moderate residuals". The teen permissiveness cluster, which included Germany (East and 
West), Austria, Sweden, and Slovenia, was marked by higher permissiveness towards 
29 
teenage and premarital sex. The sexual conservatives cluster, which was composed of 
Ireland, Northem Ireland, and the United States, showed relatively lower permissiveness 
towards all forms of nonmarital sex. The homosexual permissives cluster, which included 
Netherlands, Norway, the Check Republic, Canada, and Spain, was distinguished by higher 
levels of homosexual sexual permissiveness, with signs of polarization. They also accepted 
premarital sex while rejecting teen and extramarital sex. The moderate residuals included 
Australia, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, New Zealand, and Israel, and had 
no real common characteristics other than serving to increase the homogeneity of other 
clusters. 
Ghuman (2005) investigated residential differences in married participants from the 
Hai Duong Province of Vietnam in 2001. The study indicated that premarital permissiveness 
is higher for those who lived in urban areas, had more schooling, and were married after the 
late 1980s. The study also noted that these variables were related to premarital sexual 
permissiveness more among men than in women. The reported level of premarital sex was 
lower than estimates from other parts of Asia and the developing world (Ghuman, 2005). 
Religion 
Although religion has an intrinsically close relationship to the individual, it seems to 
be an overwhelming social force affecting attitudes towards premarital sexuality both on a 
macro and on a micro level. As Freud [1928] (1989) argues, the task of religion evolved 
into extinguishing the defects of the society, which were already defined by the society 
itself. However, as Freud claims, the weakness of a "cleansed" individual's intellect should 
30 
not be surprising, for s/he accepts the absurdities of religious doctrines and uncritically 
overlooks the contradictions between them. Thus, religion brings upon the "retardation of 
sexual development" (p. 60) in children. In a parallel line of thought, young "women labour 
under the harslmess of an early prohibition against tuming their thoughts to what would 
most interested them -namely, the problems of sexual life" (p. 61). 
Due to the rich literature regarding religion and premarital sexuality, the important 
role of religion in the Turkish society, and the almost consistent finding that religion 
significantly affects sexual attitudes, I chose to allocate relatively more space for this 
determinant. Although the effect of religion on premarital sexual attitudes is strong and 
seemingly prevalent, it should also be noted that, as Linfield (1960) argues, families and the 
more general society that inculcate religiosity in children is also simultaneously infusing 
restrictive sexual codes in them. 
In a study on changing attitudes towards premarital sex, Bell (1966) indicated that 
the nature of religion was changing with time and found a tendency of significant differences 
between religious affiliations as well as religiosity in past literature. According to the study, 
Jewish girls started to date at younger ages than Protestants or Catholics. Protestants 
tended to start dating at older ages and were more reluctant to remain in casual 
relationships than Catholics. Those with no religious affiliation had higher rates of 
premarital intercourse. The degree of religious intensity and its influence on values varied 
greatly within religious groups, although it still was a significant factor in terms of its 
correlation with premarital sexuality. 
31 
In a study of 114 male and 223 female undergraduates, Thomas (1975) found that 
sexual experience was related to low conservatism, permissive attitudes towards premarital 
sexuality, low church attendance, and not having a religious affiliation, particularly for 
females. In a sample of 480 women, Herold and Goodwin (1981) found that religiosity was 
the third most important factor influencing premarital sexual activities, after peer sexual 
experience and dating commitment. Investigating data from a 1967 sample of 114 college 
students, Reed and Weinberg (1984) found that for women who dated serially or were 
going steady, religiosity did not have an effect on premarital intercourse behavior. 
Examining the effects of sectarian and nonsectarian college environments in a sample of 20 
students from each of eight colleges, Jurich (1984) found that students in a small religiously 
affiliated college were the least permissive towards premarital sexuality while while those in 
the largest nonsectarian college were the most permissive. Hong (1985) found that, in a 
sample of 657 Australian participants aged between 19 and 69 years, church attendance had 
a significant influence on premarital sexual standards. In a sample of 40 Indian girls between 
the ages of 19 and 23, Parsuram (1988) found that those who never had sexual intercourse 
before were significantly more religious than those who had, and reported more favorable 
attitudes toward premarital sexuality. 
Woodroof (1985) examined freshmen attending 8 colleges affiliated with the 
churches of Christ. The study found a significant relationship between religious orientation 
and premarital sexual activity. While the religious variables of the study were effective in 
identifying those who had never have sex before, they did very poorly predicting those with 
32 
prior sexual experience. The author also concluded that the conservative Christian 
participants of this sample were much more religiously active and much less sexually active 
when compared to other studies that she reviewed: the rate of students with prior sexual 
experience was 25%, significantly lower than the often reported 40% - 60% rate for 
freshmen students. 
Using a probability sample extracted from whites' birth records in 1961 in Detroit, 
Remez (1990) tested a theoretical model that investigated the causal relationships between 
religious attendance, attitudes towards premarital sex, and sexual experience among 
adolescents. The study was longitudinal in that mothers were interviewed in 1962 and five 
more times over 18 years, and the children were interviewed in 1980, when they were 18 
years old but still not married (N = 916). The study found important generational 
differences and differences between adolescent men and women. Approximately one third of 
the mothers approved premarital sex, while most of the male adolescents (77%) and females 
(65%) were permissive towards premarital sex. About one fourth of the adolescents had 
two to five partners. Restrictive attitudes toward premarital sexuality and lower sexual 
experience were prevalent among those who attended religious services more frequently 
and reported religion as more important in their life. Remez suggested the model accurately 
predicted that mothers passed on their attitudes to their children and that adolescents' sexual 
activities were related to these attitudes. Remez' analysis further revealed that religious 
affiliation influenced attitudes toward premarital sex more than premarital sexual behavior 
did. While fundamentalist Protestants or Baptists scored lower in permissiveness, no effect 
33 
of religious affiliation was found on behavior except for Jewish teenagers, who were less 
likely to ever have sex. Beck et. al. (1991), however, found that religious affiliation had a 
significant effect on both premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors. They found that 
"institutionalized sects", specifically Pentecostals, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, 
exhibited lower experience of premarital sex, even after controlling church attendance. 
Cochran (1991) used the reference group theory to investigate the effect of religion 
on nonmarital sexual attitudes. According to reference group theory, individuals' behaviors 
and attitudes are strongly affected by the groups they are in because individuals use these 
groups both to evaluate their past behavior and to determine their current or future 
behaviors. Cochran found that out of a number of religiosity measures (religious attendance, 
strength of religious identification, belief in afterlife, and membership), only religious 
attendance was significantly and negatively affecting premarital sexual behavior for those 
with no membership and for Jewish, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians. For members of 
Catholic, Methodist, and Protestants, both attendance and strength of religious 
identification significantly and negatively affected premarital sexual permissiveness. For 
Lutherans, attendance, strength of religious identification, and membership significantly and 
negatively affected premarital sexual attitudes. For Baptists, belief in afterlife, attendance, 
and strength of religious identification were found to negatively affect premarital 
permissiveness. Cochran argued that although the teachings of American religions on 
nonmarital sex often vary, almost all previous studies ignored differences between different 
religious bodies. According to Cochran, the findings suggest that, consistent with the 
34 
reference group theory, the effects of religiosity were different across religious groups and 
that such a pattem was in accord with the differences in religious teachings across these 
groups on premarital sexuality. 
In a sample of 477 freshmen attending eight colleges affiliated with the churches of 
Christ, Woodroof (1986) found that the religious behaviors of parents and peers were 
related to both the religious and sexual behaviors of adolescents, while peer religiosity was 
a significantly more effective factor than parental religiosity. Referring to the reference 
group theory, Woodroof noted, based on this finding, that parents no longer constituted a 
strong reference group for college students even in such a conservative sample. 
Cochran et. al. (2004) asserted from previous literature that a general empirical 
principal seems to form, namely that there is a negative correlation between religiosity and 
sexual permissiveness. They argued that this generalization could not capture how the 
changing cultural norms (from more conservative to more liberal and than back to more 
conservative) affect the role of religion in determining premarital sexual permissiveness. 
With such cultural shifts, churches seemed to either adjust their own teaching towards more 
permissiveness or did not act on these shifts. As such, there were differences in how much 
each church and thus each faith group condemn nonmarital sexuality. Cochran et al. referred 
to reference group theory to explain the variance in permissiveness between these religions. 
They argued that more prevalent secular standards within a society tended to emphasize the 
effect of religion on sexual permissiveness in the results obtained. Less secular social mood, 
on the other hand, seemed to overshadow the effect of religion. 
35 
With data taken from 1972 - 1993 Cumulative Social Surveys with 14,396 cases, 
Petersen (1997) tested the idea of whether the relationship between religious affiliation and 
beliefs change as the support for those beliefs declines in the general population. 
Accordingly, the researcher found that there was no decline in support for traditional non- 
permissive premarital sexual attitudes over time among conservative Protestants who more 
frequently attended church. Support for such beliefs declined significantly among mainline 
Protestants and Catholics regardless of church attendance and among conservative 
Protestants who attended church infrequently. 
In a sample of 527 participants ranging from 16 to 18 years of age, Sheeran et. al. 
(1993) found that religiosity was significantly related to sexual attitudes and anticipation of 
sexual intercourse but not to actual sexual activities. Overall, more frequent church 
attendance was related to less permissive sexual attitudes and less likelyhood of reporting 
sexual intercourse. Religious affiliation was also a significant factor affecting sexuality. 
Catholic and Protestant participants' sexual attitudes were more conservative and they had 
more negative judgments of sexually active others, but they also tended to be more sexually 
active. 
Controlling for gender, age, and ethnicity and using a sample of 606 college 
students, Pluhar et. al. (1998) found significant correlations between religious affiliation, 
premarital sexual permissiveness, and students' perceptions of how much religion affects 
their sexual behavior. Strength of beliefs and religious service attendance were significantly 
related to attitudes toward premarital sexual intercourse. Exploring the relationship between 
36 
religiosity and attitudes and first sex in a longitudinal study, Meier (2003) found a 
significant effect of religiosity on first sex for females. Using longitudinal data from 1982 
and 1988, O'Connor (1998) found that religion played a growing role in white teenagers' 
premarital sexuality. For instance, the rate of fundamentalists who reported no prior sexual 
experience increased substantially between 1982 and. In a longitudinal sample of 303 teens 
aged 15 - 16 in 1996 (time 1) and 17 - 18 in 1998 (time 2), Hardy and Rafaelli (2003) 
found that teens with higher religiosity tended to delay sexual experience. McKelvey et. al. 
(1999) found that the most strong background variable related to sexual attitudes and 
sexual knowlledge was frequency of religious attendance during the past month, regardless 
of religious affiliation. Those attending religious services three or more times reported more 
negative attitudes toward and lower levels of sex knowledge. Lower sex knowledge, in 
turn, was related to negative attitudes toward non-heterosexual behavior as well as 
premarital sex and masturbation. 
Based on the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey of 1993 for women aged 15 
to 49, Addai (2000) found that religious affiliation was an important predictor of premarital 
sexual activities among ever-married women, but not among those who never married. 
Protestants and Catholics were more likely to experience premarital sex compared to 
Muslim women, sectarian christians, and women with no religion. Muslim women also 
reported the east premarital sexual experience compared to other groups controlling for all 
factors. In a cross-cultural sample of 16,604 participants from 15 countries, Scheepers et. 
al. (2002) found that parental and individual religiosity had strong effects on moral 
37 
attitudes. Effects of individual religiosity appeared to be stronger in more religious 
countries. 
Contrary to most of the literature cited above, in a sample of 191 single male and 
232 single female participants whose ages ranged from 17 to 25, Jensen et. al. (1990) found 
that only sexual permissiveness had a main effect on sexual behavior, and that religious 
attendance did not have a significant effect overall except that non-permissive participants 
who attended church every week had one of the highest frequencies of sexual activity. 
Djamba (1995) similarly found no religious difference in premarital sexual behavior in a 
sample of 515 married women from Kinshasa, Zaire with a mean age of 33 years. 
In brief, religions themselves change over time. The fluctuation within a religion 
over time, as well as differences between religious groups have significant effects on 
individuals' attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. However, higher religiosity 
seems to consistently and positively correlate with negative attitudes across time and 
religious groups. 
Personal Determinants of Premarital Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors 
Age 
Schofield (1965, in DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) reported that least 
intimate behaviors (such as kissing) were more prevalent than the most intimate behaviors 
(such as sexual intercourse) at a given age. Ehrman (1959, in DeLamater and 
MacCorquodale, 1979) reported that age at first date and participation in more intimate 
sexual behavior are positively correlated. Schofield (1959, in DeLamater and 
38 
MacCorquodale, 1979) similarly reported that age at first date and experience of sexual 
intercourse were positively correlated. 
Herold and Goodwin (1981) found age to be among a number of factors that affect 
premarital sexual behavior. In a sample of 155 male and 218 female undergraduates between 
the ages of 17 and 43, Lafuente and Valc/trcel (1984) found that younger and older 
participants tended to disapprove premarital sexual relations, while participants aged 20 to 
25 show more approval. In a sample of 657 Australian adults aged between 17 and 69, 
Hong (1985) found that age as well as church attendance influenced premarital sexual 
attitudes. More recently, Bersamin et. al. (2006) found increase in age to be among 
variables that predicted higher occurrence of both oral and vaginal sex. 
Personal Attitudes, BelieJb, And Intentions 
Reiss (1960) argued that individuals' standards derive from their culture. It seems, 
overall, that a number of personal normative attitudes are related to both premarital sexual 
attitudes and behaviors. Such variables may include social desirability, self-esteem, sexual 
guilt, political views, factors underlying intentions such as curiosity or excitement, and 
general sexual attitudes etc. Individuals' attitudes towards premarital sex also tend to have a 
strong effect on their premarital sexual activities. Christensen and Gregg (1970, in 
DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) and Kaats and Davis (1972, in DeLamater and 
MacCorquodale, 1979) concluded that the most effective forecaster of one's sexual 
behavior was one's own sexual standards. 
Lafuente and Valc/trcel (1984) found that political views were significantly related to 
39 
sexual attitudes in that those who indicated they were right-wing, center, or "other" were 
more opposed to sexual relations. Trlin et. al. (1983) found, in a sample of 495 never 
married 18 to 25 years old participants from Australia, that attitudes towards premarital sex 
emerged as the dominant factor determining premarital sexual behavior for both genders. 
Chitanum and Finchilescu (2003) found, in a sample of 100 female heterosexual university 
students, that both attitudes and subjective norms predicted sexual intentions, while the 
effect of attitudes was stronger than subjective norms. 
Dating Behavior 
It seems that dating frequency and commitment play an important role in 
determining premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors. Croake and James (1972) 
investigated the relationship between sexual behavior ranging from french kissing to sexual 
intercourse and seven levels of commitment. They found that the more the commitment in 
sexual behavior between parmers, the more the liberalization of attitudes toward such 
behavior. Schulz et. al. (1977) found that greater exposure to potential sex parmers through 
dating frequency had a positive effect on premarital sexual behavior. 
In a study of 480 females, Herold and Goodwin (1981) found that dating 
commitment and dating frequency were among the variables that had a significant effect on 
the so-called virginity status. Dating commitment was the second most effective variable in 
predicting virginity status following parental acceptance of premarital intercourse, followed 
by religiosity. Analyzing the data from a 1967 Kinsey institute sample, Reed and Weinberg 
(1984) found that dating serially or going steady and dating frequency had no effect on 
40 
premarital sexual behavior. On the other hand, Barber et. al. (2000) found that dating 
frequency predicted the timing of first intercourse together with the marital status of 
participants' parents. Investigating data from 54 white, monogamously dating undergraduate 
couples, Christopher and Cate (1988) found that the influence of love increased with 
developing emotional interdependence in a relationship in predicting sexual intimacy. 
Prior Sexual Experience 
It seems that the presence or absence of prior sexual experience is an important 
variable affecting attitudes toward premarital sexuality. However, the reader should be 
aware that not all studies define sexual experience with regard to consent. As noted by 
Reynolds (1994), some studies categorize participants purely on a "virginity dichotomy" 
(e.g. "virgin" vs. "non-virgin") or neglect to include a clear defmition for the participant of 
what they mean by "sexual experience" or "virginity". Consequently, their results disregard 
the importance of consent in women's sexual experiences. It is relatively difficult to evaluate 
these studies' conceptualizations of sex, as there is very limited direct access to the 
instruments that the researchers employed. 
Thomas (1975) found that more sexual experience was consistently related to lower 
conservatism and favorable attitudes toward premarital sex, especially for females. Sorensen 
(1972, in DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) reported that the extent of sexual 
experience is positively correlated with having intercourse earlier, having more partners, and 
greater frequency of sexual intercourse. Comparing 40 Indian participants between the ages 
of 19 and 23 on prior sexual experience, Parsuram (1988) found that those with prior sexual 
41 
experience were more permissive toward premarital sex while those with no prior sexual 
experience were more conservative and religious. Similarly, Salts et. al. (1994) found that 
undergraduates with prior sexual experience had less favorable attitudes toward marriage 
when compared to those without any prior sexual experience. McKelvey et. al. (1999) 
found that, although the most important background variable explaining both attitudes 
toward and knowledge of sex was the frequency of religious attendance, prior sexual 
experience was among the other variables which had a significant effect on the dependent 
variables. 
Parents 
Sorensen's (1972), Schofield's (1965, in DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979), 
and Reiss' (1960) studies revealed that families were less permissive, thus individuals more 
attached to their families also tended to be less permissive. Walsh, Ferrell, and Tolone 
(1976, in DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) indicated that a shift from parents to peers 
as reference groups resulted in an increase of sexual permissiveness. 
Herold and Goodwin (1981) found parental acceptance of premarital sexual 
behavior among the variables that had a significant effect on the so-called virginity status of 
participants. Using data from a national sample of white participants between the ages of 15 
to 16, Moore et. al. (1986) found little support for the argument that parental 
communication and monitoring discouraged adolescents from having premarital sexual 
experience. Kinnaird and Gerrard (1986) found that participants from divorced and 
reconstituted families reported significantly more sexual experience than those from intact 
42 
families. The authors asserted that family conflict, disruption, and the presence of a father 
were significant predictors of both dating behavior an attitudes. In a sample from Nigeria, 
Hollow and Leis (1986) similarly argued that permissive premarital sexual attitudes were 
positively correlated with higher levels of parental care taking. However Bersamin et. al. 
(2006) found that parental communication was related to the experience of vaginal sex, 
while it had no effect on oral sex. 
On the other hand, Djamba (2003) suggested, due to the positive correlation found 
between number of siblings and premarital sexual activity in a sample from the Democratic 
Republic of Congo, that a weakening of adults' attention to children in larger families may 
be a contributing factor to adolescents' premarital sexual activities. Similarly, Langille and 
Curtis (2002) found that participants under 15 years of age who had intercourse were less 
likely to live with both parents, to have highly educated parents, and to have fathers 
employed full time. Living with someone other than both parents was also positively 
associated with sexual experience before 15 years of age. Barber et. al. (2000) also found 
that women having parents who never divorced delayed the timing of first intercourse. 
Baker et. al. (1988) found that while parents' normative beliefs had a limited effect 
on adolescents' decisions to become sexually active, these beliefs explained 5% of the 
variance in adolescents prior sexual experience. Using nonrandom availability sampling, 
Wemer-Wilson (1998) found that number of siblings, number of parents, communication 
with mother and father, parental contribution to sex education, parental discussion of sexual 
values, and the sexual attitudes of the mother and the father explained some of the variance 
43 
in adolescents' sexual attitudes. Although both individual characteristics and familial 
characteristics were more powerful together in explaining these attitudes, females found to 
be more influenced by familial characteristics. 
Peers 
Ehrman (1959, in DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) identified three major 
codes of sexual conduct: (social code, personal code, and peer code). Ehrman found that 
peer codes were generally more permissive than personal codes. Personal codes were 
closely associated with the intimate behaviors engaged in. 
Although Medora (1982) found that fraternity and sorority membership did not have 
an effect on participants' attitudes toward premarital sex, peer influence seems to play an 
important role in determining individuals' premarital sexual attitudes and behaviors. In a 
national probability sample of 1177 white college student, Spanier (1976) investigated how 
classroom instructions on sex (formal sex education) and familial, peer, and societal 
influences (informal sex education) affected premarital sexual behavior. The study found 
that current influences and pressures explained variance in past and present premarital 
sexual involvement more than past informal sex education, which in turn explained more 
variance when compared to formal sex education. The researcher suggested that 
experiences and pressures in a given dating or peer group had more influence on premarital 
sexual behavior than other past sexual socialization. 
Schulz et. al. (1977) similarly found that each additional friend (out of five) who had 
prior sexual experience increased the likelihood of the participant engaging in premarital 
44 
sexuality by 12% to 14%. Sack et. al. (1984) found, that degree of approval from close 
friends was associated with the prior sexual experience of their female participants. Reed 
and Weinberg (1984) found perceptions of friends' sexual behavior to have a direct effect on 
premarital sexual behavior for women who were in a committed relationship but not for 
women who were dating serially. Friedman (2004) found that peers' communication of sex- 
related topics and perceived peer and sibling approval of sexuality were significantly related 
to participants' sexual attitudes and behavior. Perceived peer approval was the most 
powerful factor in this study. 
Educational Environment 
In the following studies, education was considered a less important background 
variable in terms of premarital sexual behavior and attitudes. Djamba (1995) found that 
higher education increased the likelihood of premarital sexual activity among university 
level educated women. In a sample from Vietnam, Ghuman (2005) found that, although 
positive attitudes toward premarital sex did not constitute a majority among more educated 
participants, having more education increased the acceptance of premarital sex, along with 
living in urban areas and being married after late 1980s. Mensh et. al. (2001), on the other 
hand, found that for female participants, education in a gender-neutral school decreased the 
likelihood of premarital sex. 
Social Class 
Similar to educational environment, social class seemed to be considered a less 
important factor influencing premarital sexual behavior and attitudes. Medora (1982) found 
45 
that socioeconomic status was not a factor with significant effect on participants' premarital 
sexual attitudes. On the other hand, Bell (1966) found that although premarital sexual 
attitudes were more permissive in lower class participants, advanced sexual expressions 
were also stigmatized by lower class norms at the time. Bell also found that premarital 
sexual experiences were highest among middle class and upper class participants, the author 
suggested that this was because of the delayed age of marriage among these groups. In 
addition, participants experiencing upper social movement were found to be more 
conservative than participants already a member of upper classes without social mobility. 
McKelvey et. al. (1999) also found that lower family income was among the factors (such 
as no prior sexual experience, right-wing political orientation, gender, and etlm/city) that 
had a negative influence on permissive premarital sexual attitudes among medical and 
nursing students. Finally, Djamba (2003) found that poverty, along with exposure to mass 
media, patrilinearity, and AIDS awareness, decreased the occurrence of premarital sexual 
activity among the participants from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Summary 
In above mentioned American-based studies, time emerges as an important factor 
when one investigates social norms. A number of studies show that premarital sexual 
standards tend to become more liberal and more egalitarian between sexes over time, 
although there are some fluctuations. Extemal and intemal attempts of modernization seems 
to play an important and sometimes negative role in the determination of attitudes towards 
premarital sexuality. Studies tend to demonstrate significant differences between different 
46 
cultures and nations. Higher religiosity seems to consistently and positively correlate with 
negative attitudes across time and religious groups. Age is identified as a predicting 
variable, although its effects are inconsistent across studies. Among personal attitudes, 
premarital sexual attitudes seem to be affected by one's own sexual standards, political 
views, subjective norms. Dating frequency and commitment play an important role as well: 
an increase in both positively correlate with more permissive attitudes toward premarital 
sexuality. Having prior sexual experience also increases such permissive attitudes. Perhaps 
as opposite forces, parents and peers also affect premarital sexual permissiveness, through 
sexual socialization in numerous ways. The effects of education and social class surface in 
some studies, even though most studies attach such background variables less value. People 
with more education and higher social class tend to have more permissive premarital sexual 
attitudes. 
Premarital Sexual Attitudes And Behaviors In The Turkish Context 
When discussing attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality in Turkey, one finds 
that the literature shifts its emphasis from abstract theories and assumptions, to the 
significance of Islam and the concept of virginity in Turkish women's lives. As such, this 
section will briefly discuss Islamic views on women's sexuality to give the reader some 
background. Following this, the concept of virginity, virginity examinations, and hymen will 
be discussed briefly. This section will be concluded with a statistical picture of Turkish 
attitudes towards sexuality in general, and specifically women's premarital sexuality. 
In order to better make sense of the inner workings of the Turkish society on any 
47 
issue, it is crucial for the reader to note the lack of investment in Eastern Turkey as a result 
of the etlm/c conflicts, and especially the civil war between the Turkish government and the 
eastern Kurdish population. These conflicts resulted in an industrialized and urbanized 
Western Turkey and a semi feudal, tribal, highly patriarchal social structure in eastern 
Turkey. This had a very significant and negative impact on eastem Turkish women's rights 
and lives, which includes the compulsory and forced nature of marriage (Ilkkaracan, 2001). 
Islam And Women's Sexuality 
Some researchers seemed to hesitate very little before labeling Turkey as the only 
modem, democratic, and Islamic nation in the world and Turkish women's status as an 
anomaly in the Islamic world (Muftuler-Bac, 1999). With relation to Islam, in terms of the 
extent of its secularism, Turkey seems rather unique in the world. Despite a long history 
intermingled with religion, after Turkey was founded in 1923, several revolutionary and 
secular changes were introduced and these progressive reforms had a significant effect on 
women's lives (Ilkkaracan, 2001). Islam has long been simultaneously a threat to Turkey's 
secular democratic foundations and a foundation to Turkish society's deeply intemalized 
social norms and values. For instance, Turkey's current prime minister, R. T. Erdogan, 
referring to Islamist terrorists' attacks, was famous for commenting "You cannot make me 
say that Islamist children kill people" (Insel, 2003, translated by Mehmet A. Ergun). 
According to Moghissi (1999), although Islam "opposes celibacy and celebrates 
sexual pleasure" (p.22) unlike some other monotheist religions, it is scared of the intensity 
and the "tempting power" (p. 26) of female sexual pleasure. 
48 
"In Islamic societies, the woman's body generates fascination 
and pleasure. It is exploited for procreation, and as a symbol of 
communal dignity. It is manipulated and its activities are codified. It is 
covered and confined. It is disciplined for defiance and is mutilated in 
anticipation of trespassing .... The female body is the site of straggle 
between the proponents and opponents of modernity and used as a 
playing card between imperial and anti-imperial political forces. In 
Islamic societies, sexuality, the site of love, desire, sexual fulfillment 
and physical procreation, is, at the same time, for women, the site of 
shame, confinement, anxiety, compulsion." (Moghissi, 1999, p. 20) 
As Ilkkaracan suggests (2001), although Islam recognizes that both men and women 
have sexual needs and desires, and it represents eroticism as a positive concept, contrary to 
its conceptualization of the male sexuality, it perceives female sexuality as chaotic, 
uncontrollable, and emotional. Consequently, it asserts that social order requires male 
control over women's sexuality. 
In his controversial textual analyses of Islam, Arsel (1997) examines how Islam 
perceives women and similarly observes a pattern, where women seem to be depicted as 
slaves and objects of pleasure for their husbands. He singles out Muhammad as one of the 
most successful architects in constructing women's role as servicing men's orders and 
domination (p. 590). He suggests that the aim of the institution of marriage in Islam is to 
give men the opportunity to act as they wish and to choose their "servants" according to 
criteria such as beauty, economic capital, religiosity, innocence, and virginity. As such, what 
women do before marriage is strictly controlled, because their past activities will predict 
how they will fit the above criteria and, consequently, whether they will be "worthy" to be 
chosen by a potential husband as wife / slave. 
49 
In brief, Islamic traditions, illusions, and beliefs, which are deeply intermingled into 
the social norms and values of Turkish society, significantly influence the way women's 
sexuality is constructed around male needs and interests. Although my literature review did 
not reveal any study conducted on Turkish participants focusing primarily on the 
relationship between the Turkish Islamic beliefs and traditions and premarital sexual 
attitudes, it is reasonable to suggest that Islam's negative effect on women's sexuality would 
show itself in women's premarital sexuality as well. I would expect that much of this effect 
would be in relation to the Islamic conceptualization of and focus on virginity, and the 
Turkish construction of honor in relation to virginity. 
Virginity And Women's Premarital Sexuality In Turkey 
"Women's base in Turkey, from childhood on, starts with 
hiding one's pussy from those who expose their pee-pees. And that's 
exactly why honor is in between two legs. A woman spends her life 
trying to protect her virginity that she takes over from her father to 
her husband. Because there is always the risk of becoming a "bad 
woman" and ending up in streets as a target. She considers being 
touched and sex before marriage, which was already demonized at the 
beginning, as a curse, and thus she reproduces this vicious / male 
circle herself." (Elmas, 2005, translated by Mehmet A. Ergun) 
It seems the relationship between purity and chastity in Islam is overwhelmingly 
found in the norms and beliefs of Turkish society. The society pressures Turkish women to 
remain virgins until marriage, while males are expected to explore sexuality before marriage 
(Coket al., 2001). According to Muftuler-Bac (1999), the prohibition of premarital as well 
as extramarital and non-marital sexuality are related to the concept of sexual purity of 
women. "The strong codes of conduct, which define women's sexual behavior, are used as 
50 
an instrument to keep women under the control of their fathers, husbands, and brothers who 
assme responsibility for ensuring 'their' women retain their chastity" (Ilkkaracan and Seral, 
2000, p. 189). Such codes embed negative attitudes into society's conceptualization of 
women's sexuality and are used as intemalized restrictions on women's sexual activities. 
Consequently, women cannot make free decisions on their sexual behaviors and experience 
their sexual being with lack of control, violence, and abuse, but "certainly not with 
pleasure" (Ilkkaracan and Seral, 2000, p. 189). Pelin (1999) explains the implications of 
such prohibitions on women's premarital sexuality as follows: 
"Premarital sex for a woman is regarded as wrong in my 
country. As a restfit, it is socially forbidden for a woman to engage in 
this act. In order to present a woman as a virgin on her marriage day, 
she is subjected to pressure, and put under control both by her family 
and societal norms. However, a man is free and never made to suffer 
any of the above. A woman found to be a virgin on her first night of 
marriage is seen as a normal person while one suspected to have lost 
her virginity is made to undergo a series of medical examinations to 
bring clarity to her situation." (Pelin, 1999, p. 256.) 
In brief, the Turkish culture regards premarital sex as highly inappropriate for 
women (Wasti and Cortine, 2002; Kayir, 2000; Aydin and Gtficat; Duyan and Duyan, 2005) 
and the taboos on premarital sexual relationships add up to concems over women's hymens 
(Cindoglu, 1997). Moreover, virginity is not just a temporary issue to be dealt with until 
marriage: "It is arguably one of the most important concepts that define women's sexuality 
in Turkey and the means of its control." (Altinay, 2000, p. 403). 
The effect of the concept of hymen and virginity is extremely powerful not only on 
women's premarital sexuality, but also on women's overall sexual lives. For instance, as a 
51 
woman with prior premarital sexual experience, a friend of mine received the following 
confrontational remark from one of her close male friends: "Regardless of how modem a 
Turkish man could be, he would never want to marry you because you are sexually 
experienced." (Personal conversation, Anonymous, 2006, translated by Mehmet A. Ergun). 
Qualitative studies reported similar remarks from participants that signal a deep conflict 
between women who have premarital sex and the overall Turkish society: 
"I had to convince my husband that I was a virgin when we 
got married. I still keep the doctors reports pronouncing me a virgin, 
'just in case' anyone questions this in the future." (Ilkkaracan and 
Seral, 2000, p. 194). 
"A friend of mine who was not a virgin arranged her wedding 
night to coincide with her period; she even changed the date when she 
realized it was going to be off by a few days" (Ilkkaracan and Seral, 
2000, p. 194). 
"I think about the day after my first sexual relationship. Until 
that day, my ideas were so clear. I had protested against all taboos 
about my body... I remember the shock and the agitation that I felt 
the day after my first sexual relationship when I realized there was no 
going back and that I was experiencing a horrible feeling of guilt." 
(Altinay, 2000, p. 407). 
Investigating the risks to women's sexual health of 20 Turkish women, most of 
whom were born in Turkey and immigrated to Australia before 1985 and currently live in 
Melbourne Australia, Gifford et. al. (1998) encountered a similar pattern: The discourse 
about sexual health risks focused around the concepts of honor and shame. Turkish women 
spoke of protecting their honor and avoiding the risk of bringing shame to themselves and 
to their families essentially by protecting their virginity until marriage. In this context, it is 
52 
not surprising that the most known female "sexual organ", at least in Eastern Turkey, was 
the hymen (T'tirkiye ilk cinsel bilgilerini kimden ahyor, 2005). 
While premarital female virginity has an extremely significant societal value attached 
to it, it is also considered an important patriarchal social norm used to control women's 
sexual behavior (Ayotte, 2000). Virginity examinations are a powerful mechanism for the 
family and the state to promote the social value of the hymen and the stigma attached to 
women's premarital sexual activities. Alkan et. al. (2002) observed 27,376 gynechological 
examinations done between January 1, 1999 and June 20, 2001. They found that 1.5% of 
these were done for "social and legal reasons". Of these, 57% of gynecological 
examinations were in fact virginity examinations. 
The decision to engage in premarital sex involves the high risk of being forced into 
undergoing a virginity examination, for instance by head teachers, employers, law 
enforcement agents, parents, and so on (Pelin, 1999; although currently, only prosecutors 
and judges can lawfully order virginity examinations). While its psychological effects may 
lead to suicide (Saribas, 2005), its results may lead to violence against women, and even 
murder. While a virginity examination might cause the woman under question be murdered 
in the name of honor, it is only one of the many reasons/excuses of honor killings. 
Kocacioglu (2004) defines "honor crimes" as "the murder of a woman by members of her 
family who do not approve of her sexual behavior" (p. 118). According to Kocacioglu 
(2004), 53 women were estimated to be murdered between 1994 - 1996. Reasons for such 
murders range from suspected premarital sexual activities to liking to go out too much 
53 
(Yirmibesoglu, 2000; Duzkan and Kocali, 2000). 
As Parla suggests (2001), the effect of the fear of losing virginity is so powerful in 
Turkey that it is one of strategies anti-terror police employs for terrorizing and humiliating 
Kurdish women. In Parla's terms, in the context of anti-terror police, virginity is used as a 
weapon against the "enemies of the state" (p. 81). In the context of"civil" life, on the other 
hand, it is used as a tool to regulate sexuality. In both contexts, the variable that remains 
constant is construction of gender-specifical shame (Parla, 2001). The involvement of the 
state can also be observed in other circumstances such as a former Minister of Health 
ordering regular monthly virginity tests for female patients of a mental hospital (Muftuler- 
Bac, 1999). 
A Statistical Picture Of Women's Premarital Sexuality In Turkey 
It should be noted that research on sex in Turkey is scarce. "While sex research is 
blooming in the United States ..., it is almost nonexistent in Turkey, partly because the 
antisexualism that has prevailed in Turkish culture can make such studies risky" (Erkmen et 
al, 1990, p. 251). Such risks range from experiences of stigmatization in the Turkish 
academic milieu to experiences of various degrees of physical violence (Kayar, 2005) and 
even life threats as the researchers will have to challenge existing sensitive Turkish social 
norms and values as s/he proceeds with her/his research. 
Ambivalent sexism theory (Sakalli-Ugurlu and Glick, 2003) claims that traditional 
attitudes toward women have a benevolent and a hostile component. Benevolent sexism can 
be defined as a set of beliefs that reinforce the assumption that women are the weaker sex 
54 
and therefore require men's protection, only if they confirm to social norms prescribed to 
them. Those who do not conform to such norms are subject to hostile sexism, which 
perceives women as seeking to gain control over men. With regard to sexuality, benevolent 
sexism emphasize that women need to be purer than men while hostile sexism expresses fear 
that women may gain power over men within romantic relationships. Benevolent sexism 
idealizes and regards women who remain sexually "pure," while hostile sexism punishes 
those who are sexually deviant. 
Investigating the effects of ambivalent sexism on attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality on a sample of 124 undergraduates and 60 non-students, Sakalli-Ugurlu 
and Glick (2003) found that males had significantly more sexual experience and they scored 
higher in hostile sexism than women, while women scored higher in benevolent sexism. Men 
expressed more negative attitudes toward women who engage in premarital sex, but the 
average score of men's willingness to marry a non-virgin was close to the midpoint of the 
scale used. Benevolent sexism was related to negative premarital attitudes in both men and 
women but hostile sexism significantly predicted negative premarital attitudes among only 
men. 
While hostile sexism was correlated with negative attitudes toward women's 
premarital sex for men only, it was not a predictor once other variables were controlled. 
Benevolent sexism and hostile sexism both correlated with men's unwillingness to marry a 
non-virgin. The authors argued that because hostile sexism characterizes women as power 
hungry, marrying a sexually experienced woman is very threatening to a male ego high on 
55 
hostile sexism. Similarly, highly benevolent sexist men would think that women who are 
sexually experienced before marriage are likely to challenge traditional roles, threatening the 
power held by men in a marriage. 
Exploring women's sexuality in Eastern Turkey with a sample of 599 women 
between the ages of 14 and 75, Ilkkaracan's (2000) findings on marriage implies that there is 
a sharp contrast between university student samples and samples from Eastern Turkey with 
regard to sexual practices and attitudes. Ninety seven percent of all participants older than 
24 years of age were married, which indicated that marriage is compulsory in the region for 
women. Mean age at first religious marriage was 17.9. Almost half of the participants were 
not asked for her opinion to marry, married without consent, and/or did not meet their 
husband before marriage. 
Muftuler-Bac (1999) reported that the most conservative group among the 
participants were older (between the ages of 55 and 59 years), married women with children 
of their own. Ninety four percent of this group were opposed to notions such as premarital 
sex and single women living on their own. 
After surveying 145 women and 172 men from inner Anatolia between the ages of 
18 and 31, Duyan and Duyan (2005) found that the participants were more accepting and 
liberal for others' sexual preferences and activities than their own. Erkmen et. al. (1990) 
found, among the male and female undergraduates, that more than half reported that 
"virginity is a girl's most valuable possession". 
Kayar (2005) reported on a study that examined the attitudes, beliefs, norms, and 
56 
values in Turkey with a sample of 208 participants older than 13, from 17 different cities. 
Similar to Erkmen's (1990) and Ilkkaracan's (2000) findings, more than half of the 
participants and almost all participants in Eastern Turkey reported that virginity was the 
symbol of a woman's honor. About half of the respondents reported that virginity is the 
father's/husband's honor, while only 28.4% agreed that it wass normal to experience 
sexuality without damaging the hymen. (Bekaret konusunda ikiyfizlfiyiiz, 2005). 
Eighty five percent overall and 95% of conservatives agreed that hymen should be 
"broken" only after marriage. Almost all of the conservatives also reported that virginity 
was the symbol of honor, that virginity was husband's/father's honor, and that men should 
only marry virgins. Although more than half of the liberal participants agreed with the above 
statements, the rates were lower when compared to conservatives. (Bekaret konusunda 
ikiyfizliiyfiz, 2005). 
The study also found that premarital cohabitation was unacceptable for almost half 
of the participants while only 16% found it acceptable. Mothers were more permissive 
toward flirting than fathers, while only 4.5% of parents reported it was okay for their 
daughters to have premarital sexual experience. Upper class parents were more liberal 
(16%) when compared to lower class parents (2%). There were no parents from Eastern 
Turkey who reported their daughters' premarital sexual experiences as acceptable. Of those 
who were identified as conservative, only 1.5% reported that premarital sexual experience 
was acceptable for their daughters. 
Similar to the above research that implies Turkish populations tend to be restrictive 
57 
toward women's premarital sex, in a study investigating 101 nurses' and midwives' views of 
virginity examinations, Gursoy and Vural (2003) found that over half disapproved of 
premarital sex. As reasons for the importance of virginity, almost half reported social 
pressures while only about one tenth reported that virginity should not be so important 
because sex experience is an individual right. 
Almost all participants opposed hymen examination and indicated that these 
examinations were being imposed on individuals without their consent. Yet, only about one 
tenth reported that performing an examination without consent was illegal. More than one 
third stated that virginity is the most valuable aspect of being a woman while the majority 
believed that virginity was not important for either genders. 
Most participants were unwilling to accept and/or sanction premarital sex activity of 
their daughters. Most reported that premarital sexual activities of their daughters would 
have negative consequences for the daughters such as forcing daughter to marry parmer or 
arranging for hymenoplasty while only one tenth were comfortable with possible premarital 
sexual activities of their daughters. 
Most reported that they would act as usual when a girl was undergoing the 
examination, although one tenth said they would remind the girl that premarital sex was 
morally wrong. Interestingly, only 4% said they would not resist if they were to take the 
examination themselves. Most participants did not report that they would remind the patient 
that she has the right to refuse the examination. A relatively high percentage of participants 
(14.9%) reported that suicide may be a necessity to maintain virginity. 
58 
In relation to such prevalent negative attitudes towards women's sexuality, Kayir 
(2000) suggests that the relatively high prevalence of"vaginismus" in Turkey, compared to 
other nations, was related to the socialization of girls which greatly emphasizes the role of 
"protect[ing] their hymen" (p. 263). 
Ozan et. al. (2005) surveyed 201 1st and 6th year university students. Most of the 
males (68.7%) and a small minority of females (11.4%) had prior sexual experience. Sixth 
year males rated significantly higher than 1 st year males on the number of prior sexual 
experiences. Females overall tended to have sex at a later age than males. While all females 
had prior sexual experience with a significant other, only about half of the 1 st year and 
about one third of the 6th year male students reported having prior sexual experience with a 
significant other. As determinants of sexual attitudes & behaviors, most prevalent 
determinants for both genders were participants' own desires and values and social factors. 
Protection from STDs was more important for males while females rated family 
expectations as more prevalent. In addition, protecting virginity emerged as an important 
determinant of sexual attitudes and behaviors among 6 th year female students while religious 
requirements were specifically important for 1st year female students 
Parallel to Ozan. et. al.'s (2005) findings, Gokengin et. al. (2003) found that more 
than half of the participants indicated that they never engaged in sexual activity. Males, 
more educated students, and students with higher socioeconomic status tended to report 
more sexual activities. Most students had their first sexual experience between 15 and 19 
years of age. No significant difference was found between male and female students or 
59 
among socioeconomic classes when compared for age at first sex. Males (39.3%) were 
significantly more prone to have sex with different and more partners than were females. 
The study also found that female participants adopted a more conservative attitude than 
males. 
Ungan and Yaman (2003) and Ergene et. al. (2005) reported similarly that only a 
minority of undergraduate student (19% and 28% respectively) had prior sexual experience 
or were sexually active. Investigating university students' sexual behavior and attitudes, Cok 
et. al. (2001) found that most never had sex before. The percentage of females with no prior 
sexual experience was more than that of males. About one tenth of females had vaginal 
intercourse experience, compared to one third of males. Most prominent sexual behaviors 
for females were holding hands/hugging and kissing (50.7%), while males had a much more 
diverse repertoire of sexual behaviors, ranging from holding hands to masturbation. The 
authors concluded that societal pressures on Turkish women to remain virgins until 
marriage were highly effective, while males were expected to have sex before marriage. 
Duyan and Duyan (2005) found that religiosity was correlated with sexual attitudes. 
Culpan and Marzotto (1982) similarly found, in a 1970 sample of 1,000 university students, 
that the importance of marriage was significantly correlated with religion and class. 
Dilbaz et. al. (1992, in Gursoy and Vural, 2003) found that 85% of men expected 
women they marry to be virgins. Similarly, Irbas and Vargur (2002, in Gursoy and Vural, 
2003) found that although the majority of university males reported they perceived no 
relation between honor and virginity, they expected their potential spouses to be virgin. 
60 
Ozturk (1998, in Gursoy and Vural, 2003) found that 55% of the university students 
thought virginity was important. Anonymous (1998, in Gursoy and Vural, 2003) found that 
99% of female educators opposed forced virginity examinations while only 46% of female 
gynecologists agreed with the idea that hymen examination degrades women and leads to 
emotional distress. 
Summary 
Sex research in Turkey is risky and scarce. In the Turkish context, available research 
demonstrated that Turkish populations tend to be restrictive toward premarital sex. Gender 
played an important role in predicting prior sexual experience and attitudes toward 
premarital sex. It seemed there was a sharp difference between Eastern and Western Turkey, 
where the latter tended to be more permissive than the former. Sexual experience, number 
of children, class, and age seemed to be positively correlated with permissiveness while 
religion was negatively correlated. Liberals tended to be more permissive compared to 
conservatives. Percentages of women never having premarital sex in reviewed studies 
ranged from 53.3% to 81% while men tended to have more premarital sex with more 
partners than women did. General societal disapproval rates of women's premarital sex in 
reviewed studies ranged from a permissive rate of 26.5% to an extremely conservative rate 
of 98%. 
Research Ouestions 
This literature review demonstrated that time period, modernization attempts, 
region, religion, age, personal attitudes, dating behavior, prior sexual experience, parents 
61 
and peers, educational environment, and social class are variables that affect attitudes 
toward premarital sexuality in the U.S. Only a few researchers focused on women's 
responses and on attitudes toward women's premarital sex. This literature review also 
showed that Turkish populations tend to be restrictive toward premarital sex. Gender, 
region, sexual experience, number of children, class, age, and political views were variables 
that affected premarital sexual attitudes, while Islam and the concept of virginity had a 
culture-specific negative effect on women's sexual lives. 
In the light of above findings, this research proposes to focus only on women's 
responses to attitudes toward women's premarital sex. As such, this is an attempt to fill the 
gap in sex research on women in Turkey. Based on the findings of previous researchers on 
the issue, this research proposes to explore the effects of background variables and 
atfitudinal and behavioral variables on attitudes toward women's premarital sex in a female- 
only population. 
62 
Methodology 
Data Collection 
Data were collected through a nonrandom sample. Initially, 318 male and female 
students of the Istanbul University English Language and Literature Department voluntarily 
participated in this study. There were 41 males (%14) and 277 females (87.1%). The 
Department reported that the total number of their student body was close to 450, at the 
time, with approximately 15% males and 85% females. Accordingly, the participation rate 
was 70.6%. The response ratio of females to males in this study is roughly reflective of the 
Department's overall gender ratio. 
Given that the focus of current study is on women's attitudes towards sexuality, and 
because the number of male respondents is low, making comparative analysis problematic, 
the male data were excluded. Consequently, the final number of participants is 277 females. 
The age of these participants ranged from 17 to 39, with a mean of 21.26 (SD = 3.035). 
Forty four point eight percent of the students were between 21 and 22 years of age. Ninety 
four point six percent were never married. Ninety three point nine percent were born in 
Turkey. Forty one point three percent were born in Istanbul. The rest of the sample reported 
61 different cities, 14 of them out of Turkey. 
Data were collected using an anonymous survey consisting of 55 questions in 
Turkish (see Appendix A for the questionnaire in Turkish, Appendix B for questionnaire in 
English). Prior to the distribution of the survey, question 38 (based on the "Sexual 
Experience Inventory" by Brady and Levitt, 1965; see Appendices A or B for the questions, 
63 
and Appendix C for the letter from the Department) was deemed too sexually explicit by the 
chair of the Department and was dropped to avoid controversy and negative reactions from 
the administration of Istanbul University. The surveys were given to students between May 
7 th and May 11 th of 2005, at the beginning of regularly scheduled classes. Participation was 
completely anonymous and voluntary. All participants were asked to fill out the survey as 
honestly as possible. Participants had the opportunity to discontinue their participation in 
the survey any time. After the surveys were completed and collected by the lecturers of each 
class, they were given to Dr. Zeynep Ergun, the chair of the Department. 
Demographics 
Sex was operationalized as either male or female. The researcher was aware that the 
continuing widespread enforcement of the gender binaries of maleness and femaleness is a 
constraint for individuals whose anatomies and/or "choices" (sic) do not correspond with 
these binaries (Preves, 2000). Preves demonstrates that the current dichotomization of sex 
is inadequate and that the researchers should not add to the demonization and 
stigmatization of individuals who do not fit into the categories of male and female, (e.g. 
intersexual, transsexual, and transgendered individuals). However, the concept of 
intersexuality is mostly unfamiliar and the categories transgender and transsexual are 
extremely closely associated with prostitution in Turkish society. At this relatively 
conservative phase of Turkish society, I was constrained to incorporate this weakness into 
my questionnaire by not including intersexuality, transsexualism, transgenderism, or 
categories other than male or female. This was also done in order to incorporate cultural 
64 
sensitivities into the questionnaire. 
The other variables included in the analysis are age in years, marital status, country 
of birth (Turkey or other), city of birth (coded as "Istanbul" or "Other"), ethnicity (coded 
as "Turkish" or "Other"), total monthly family income, number of children, residential 
partner (parents and/or relatives or other), employment status, parents' marital status, 
mother's and father's educational status (primary school, middle school, high school, 
community college, university, graduate, other), and social class (measured on a 7-point 
Likert scale ranging from 1 = bottom class to 7 = top class). 
Construction Of The Attitudinal And Behavioral Variables 
Factor analyses were conducted to determine underlying structures of attitudinal 
and behavioral variables. Principal components analyses using varimax rotation were 
employed. After an initial analysis that produced principal components, two criteria were 
used to determine the accuracy of the analysis. These criteria were relative loadings 
(without rotation) of each variable vis-a-vis the others and the eigenvalue of each 
component (> 1). 
Factor analysis is used to measure which common variables overlap and reflect an 
underlying structure, and hence can be combined into a scale. Primary component analysis, 
as an exploratory process, extracts common components in a given set of variables. The 
most common criterion to decide which components and variables to keep or to drop from 
the analysis is the eigenvalue, which is "the amount of total variance explained by each 
factor, with the total amount of variability in the analysis equal to the number of original 
65 
variables in the analysis" (Mertler and Vannatta, 2005, p. 250). The criterion used in this 
study is that only components with eigenvalues equal to or greater than one are retained. 
This is commonly referred to as the "Kaiser's role" (Merrier and Vannatta, 2005, p. 250). 
Factor loadings are the Pearson correlation of each variable with the factor (Merrier and 
Vannatta, 2005). These reveal the extent to which each of the variables composing the 
factor are related to that factor. The criterion of relatively higher factor loadings was used in 
this study in order to keep only those variables that highly correlated with the factor. Total 
variance accounted for by each primary component indicates the degree of internal 
consistency of the variables. 
Table 1 describes the factor analyses of the attitudinal and behavioral variables. A 
total of 10 factor analyses on 51 variables were performed. This produced a total number of 
15 factors. For each of these factors, the eigenvalues were greater than one and loadings for 
each variable were relatively high. The variables comprising the various components were 
then combined into scales using regression analysis, which gives a weight to each of the 
variables comprising the scale equal to its correlation with the factor. Brief description of 
variables comprising the scales can be found in Table 1 and the full wording of the questions 
themselves in Appendix A and B. 
66 
Table 1. Factor Analyses of Atfitudinal and Behavioral Variables 
PC 
Analy 
sis 
Components Variables Loadings* 
Explained 
Variance 
Eigenvalue 
Political Monetary participation in 
.85 
Participation political organizations 
Participation in political 
meetings 
.85 
72.59% 
>1 
2 
Political 
Liberalism - Conservatism .85 
Affiliation 
Left-wing - Right-wing .85 
73.59% 
>1 
3 
Interest in 
Interest in national politics .92 
Politics 
Interest in international 
politics 
.93 
43.82% 
>1 
Attitudes 
toward 
Social 
Regulation 
Attitudes toward economic 
liberalism 
Separatism 
.70 
.72 
25.64% 
>1 
4 
Personal 
Religiosity 
Effectiveness of religious 
beliefs in everyday life 
Belief in god 
Role of prayer in everyday 
life 
Belief in religious miracles 
Belief in life after death 
Importance given to belief in 
god 
Belief in hell 
Belief in heaven 
.76 
.87 
.90 
.90 
.90 
.92 
.94 
.95 
80.70% 
>1 
Political 
Religiosity 
5 Anti-secularism .73 64.27% >1 
6 
7 
8 
Veil in public sphere 
Mosque in public sphere 
Sharia 
Prayer in public sphere 
.75 
.83 
.83 
.84 
Modem 
Sexism 
General modem sexism 
Job discrimination 
Spousal discrimination 
Success discrimination 
.64 
.73 
.73 
.75 
39.00% 
Attitudes 
toward 
Women's 
Organization 
s 
Attitudes toward women's 
organizations - frustration 
.93 
26.12% 
Attitudes toward women's 
organizations - straggle 
.94 
Old- 
fashioned 
sexism 
Job status discrimination 
Sports discrimination 
Intellectual discrimination 
Logic discrimination 
.65 
.66 
.72 
.77 
41.09% 
Attitudes 
toward 
Unpaid 
Labor 
Domestic labor 
discrimination 
.88 
20.63% 
Self-sex 
Quality 
Sensitiveness of parmer 
Ability of parmer 
General excitement 
Boredom 
Quality of parmer 
.58 
.66 
.68 
.74 
.82 
53.75% 
>1 
>1 
>1 
>1 
>1 
67 
Sexual attraction to parmer .85 
68 
Parmer-sex 
Quality 
Fun .68 
Partner's Enjoymeent .85 
Sexual attraction of parmer .87 
12.90% >1 
9 
Sexual 
Attitudes 
Sexual freedom .67 
Homophobia .68 
Importance of sex .69 
Family values .85 
Extramarital sex .87 
Premarital sex sign of 
.88 
degeneration 
Sex reserved for marriage .89 
64.13% >1 
10 
Attitudes 
toward 
Women's 
Premarital 
Sexuality 
Acceptability of women's 
premarital kissing 
Acceptability of women's 
.92 
premarital intercourse 
Acceptability of women's .94 
premarital cuddling without 
clothes 
.80 79.54% >1 
* If more than one component is extracted, loading values represent loading after rotation 
Political Participation, Denomination, And Attitudes 
Political participation is a scale that includes two questions with responses to each 
coded from 1 to 7, seven being higher participation. A factor analysis of these revealed one 
component. The component, Political Participation, accounted for 72.59% of the variance, 
69 
and was coded such that higher values mean higher participation. 
Political affiliation is a scale that includes two questions with responses to each 
coded from 1 to 7, seven being right-wing conservatism. A factor analysis of these revealed 
one component. The component, PoliticalAffiliation, accounted for 73.59% of the 
variance, and was coded such that higher values mean increasingly right and conservative 
political affiliation. 
Political attitudes is a scale that includes 5 questions. A factor analysis of these 
produced two components, which were not confirmed by the criteria. After discarding 
attitudes towards unions, which loaded poorly on both components, the following analysis 
produced two components. The first component, Interest in Politics, was coded such that 
higher values mean higher interest in politics. The second component, Attitudes toward 
Social Regulation, was coded such that higher values mean increasingly negative attitudes 
towards social regulation and ethnic or religious organizations. 
Religiosity 
Measuring religiosity is a very complicated subject for scientific measurement 
(DeVellis, 2003). Various approaches towards the dimensionality of conceptualizing religion 
exist. Early studies, as described by Wulff (1991), measure religiosity in terms of one 
dimension and thus by one homogeneous scale. Later studies, on the other hand, devise a 
multidimensional approach for the measurement of individuals' religiosity. The number of 
dimensions operationalized in previous studies range anywhere from 5 (Faulkner & Dejong, 
1966) to 10 (King & Hunt, 1969). 
70 
In this study, personal religiosity and political religiosity were conceptualized as two 
important dimensions of religiosity. Personal religiosity is a scale that includes 9 questions, 
with responses to each coded from 1 to 7, seven being higher personal religiosity. A factor 
analysis of these produced one component, which was not confirmed by the criteria. After 
discarding belief in devil, which poorly loaded into the initial component, the following 
analysis produced one component. The component, Personal Religiosity, which explained 
80.70% of the total variance, was coded such that higher values mean higher levels of 
personal religiosity. 
Political religiosity is a scale that measures the extent to which participants believe 
religion should penetrate into the public sphere. It consists of 5 questions, coded from 1 to 
7, seven being higher political religiosity. One component, Political Religiosity, which 
accounted for 64.27% of the total variation, was produced. It was coded such that higher 
values mean higher levels of political religiosity. 
Sexism 
Sexism is a variable that might be related to both religiosity and attitudes towards 
premarital sexuality, especially because sexists will tend to regard women as property 
obtained through marriage or fatherhood. To examine this effect, the study included 
variables that attempt to measure old-fashioned (e.g. overt) and modem (e.g. covert) 
sexism, originally prepared by Morrison et. al. (1999). The questions used are rated 
especially successful when administered to university student samples (Morrison et al., 
1999). 
71 
The concept of modem sexism was operationalized by 8 questions, coded from 1 to 
7, seven indicating higher sexist attitudes. A factor analysis of these produced two 
components, which was not confirmed by the criteria. After discarding two questions, which 
loaded poorly on both components, the following analysis produced two components. The 
first component, Modem Sexism, was coded such that higher values mean higher modem 
sexist attitudes. The second component, Attitudes towards Women Organizations, was 
coded such that higher values mean increasingly negative attitudes towards women's 
organizations. 
The concept of old-fashioned sexism was operationalized by 5 questions, coded 
from 1 to 7, seven being higher sexist attitudes. A factor analysis of these produced two 
components. The first component, Old-Fashioned Sexism, was coded such that higher 
values mean higher old-fashioned sexist attitudes. The second component, Attitudes toward 
Unpaid Labor, was coded such that higher values mean increasingly positive attitudes 
towards men's exploitation of women's unpaid labor. 
Sexual Practices 
Sexual practices are measured along three dimensions: sexual orientation, prior 
sexual experience, and the quality of sex life. Prior sexual experience was operationalized as 
any experience that the participant thought was sexual, during the last 3 or 4 years (prior 
sexual experience). Sexual orientation was measured by a 7-point Likert scale (1 =attracted 
to men only, 4=attracted to both sexes, 7=attracted to women only). The quality of sex life 
was operationalized by 10 questions, coded from 1 to 7, seven being better quality of sex 
72 
life. A factor analysis of these produced two components, which were not confirmed by the 
criteria. After discarding self-perceived quality of sex life, which was poorly loading, the 
following analysis revealed two components. The first component, Self-sex Quality, was 
coded such that higher values mean better self-sex quality. The second component, 
Partner-sex Quality, was coded such that higher values mean better parmer-sex quality. 
Sexual Attitudes And Attitudes Towards Premarital Sexuality 
Sexual attitudes (based on the "Sexual Attitude Scale", Hudson et al., 1983) was 
operationalized in terms by 11 questions, coded from 1 to 7, seven being liberal sexual 
attitudes. A factor analysis of these produced one component, which was not confirmed by 
the criteria. After discarding privacy, masturbation, sex education, and procreation, which 
loaded poorly into the initial component, the following analysis produced only one 
component. This component, Sexual Attitudes, which explained 64.13% of the total 
variance, was coded such that higher values mean liberal sexual attitudes. 
Finally, attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality is a scale that includes 4 
variables, coded from 1 to 4, four being more permissive attitudes toward women's 
premarital sex. This scale is based on Reiss' (1960) premarital sexual standards. A factor 
analysis of these produced only one component. This component, Attitudes towards 
Women's Premarital Sexuality, which explained 79.54% of the total variation, was coded 
such that higher values mean more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital 
sexuality. 
Results 
Descriptive Statistics Of Participants' Background Variables 
Table 2 presents means, standard errors, standard deviations, minimums, and 
maximums for age, total monthly family income, number of children, and social class. 
Accordingly, participants had a mean age of 21.26 (SD = 3.03) and a mean total monthly 
family income of 1,949 New Turkish Liras, Turkey's currency (SD = 1,856). Most 
participants did not have any children and they mostly reported being members of the 
middle to upper social classes. 
73 
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics of Participants' Demographics 
St. Error 
Respondent's Age in Years 
Mean 21.26 
Std. Deviation 3.03 
M'mimum 17.00 
Maximum 39.00 
.18 
Total Monthly Family Income 
Mean 1949.07 
Std. Deviation 1856.38 
M'mimum 250.00 
Maximum 15000.00 
126.31 
Number of Children 
Mean .04 
Std. Deviation .24 
M'mimum .00 
Maximum 2.00 
.01 
Social Class (1 = Bottom; 7 = Top) 
Mean 4.46 
Std. Deviation .84 
M'mimum 2.00 
Maximum 7.00 
.05 
74 
Table 3 presents frequencies and percentages for various demographic variables, 
prior sexual experience, and sexual orientation. Almost half of the participants were 
between 20 and 21 years of age. Forty four percent have no prior sexual experience and 
most (73.3%) classified themselves as strictly heterosexual. Ninety four point six percent 
was never married. Ninety three point nine percent were born in Turkey. Almost half were 
bom in Istanbul, 80.1% indicating a Turkish ethnicity. In terms of residency, 60.6% are 
living with a friend or relative, and 26.4% are currently employed. Respondents living with 
their parents or relatives were significantly younger than those living with other residential 
partners (F(1,269) = 10.879, p < .005). Eighty three point four percent of the participants 
had an intact family. Their mothers' attended mostly primary school (29.6%) and high 
school (35%) while their fathers' attended mostly high school (28.8%) and university 
(32.9%). According to a one-sample t-test, fathers (mean = 3.313, SD = 1.535) were 
significantly more educated than mothers (mean = 2.780, SD = 1.525, p < .001). 
75 
Table 3. 
Frequencies on Selected Demographic Variables 
Frequency Percent 
Valid Percent 
Cumulative 
Percent 
Respondent's Age 
Between 17 61 22.0 22.0 22.0 
and 19 
inclusive 
Between 20 
124 44.8 44.8 66.8 
and 21 
22 44 15.9 15.9 82.7 
23 or higher 44 15.9 15.9 98.6 
Missing 4 1.4 1.4 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
Respondent's Marital 
Status 
Never 
262 94.6 95.6 95.6 
Married 
Divorced 1 0.4 0.4 96.0 
Married 11 4.0 4.0 
Missing 3 1.1 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
City of Birth 
Istanbul 142 51.3 54.0 54.0 
Other City 121 43.7 46.0 
Missing 14 5.1 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
Employment 
Yes 73 26.4 26.6 26.6 
No 201 72.6 73.4 
Missing 3 1.1 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
Marital Status of 
Parents 
Divorced 25 9.0 9.5 9.5 
Separated 7 2.5 2.7 12.2 
Married 231 83.4 87.8 
Missing 14 5.1 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
Mother's Educational 
Background 
Primary 82 29.6 30.6 30.6 
School 
Middle 
24 8.7 9.0 39.6 
School 
High School 
Community 
College 
University 
Graduate 
School 
Missing 
Total 
97 
18 
44 
3 
9 
N=277 
35.0 36.2 75.7 
6.5 6.7 82.5 
15.9 16.4 98.9 
1.1 1.1 
Father's Educational 
Background 
3.2 
100% 100% 
Residential Parmer 
Primary 49 17.7 18.3 
School 
Middle 
30 10.8 11.2 
School 
High School 80 28.9 29.9 
Community 12 4.3 4.5 
College 
University 91 32.9 34.0 
Graduate 6 2.2 2.2 
Missing 9 3.2 
Total N=277 100% 100% 
168 
106 
3 
N=277 
100% 
Prior Sexual 
Experience 
18.3 
Sexual Orientation 
Relatives or 
parents 
Other 
Missing 
Total 
29.5 
59.3 
63.8 
97.8 
100% 
60.6 61.3 61.3 
38.3 38.7 
1.1 
100% 100% 
100% 
No 122 44.0 47.8 47.8 
Yes 133 48.0 52.2 
Missing 22 7.9 
Total N=277 100% 100% 100% 
Attracted to 
203 73.3 79.6 79.6 
men only 
2 26 9.4 10.2 89.8 
3 8 2.9 3.1 92.9 
Both sexes 15 5.4 5.9 98.8 
5 1 0.4 0.4 99.2 
6 1 0.4 0.4 99.6 
76 
77 
Attracted to 
1 0.4 0.4 
women only 
Missing 22 7.9 
Total N=277 100% 100% 
100% 
Regression Analyses 
Relationships Between Background Variables And Attitudes Toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
The primary purpose of doing a multiple regression analysis is to create an equation 
that will predict the values on a dependent variable from a weighted combination of some 
independent variables. These values are calculated for a given population. More specifically, 
stepwise multiple regression with forward selection, the main analysis technique used in this 
research, is often used in exploratory studies (Aron and Aron, 1999, In Mertler and 
Vannatta, 2005). Its aim is to determine those independent variables that make the most 
significant contribution in predicting the values of the dependent variable. During the 
forward selection, independent variables are entered into the equation in an order, from the 
most contributing to the least contributing, until predictor variables do not significantly 
contribute to the equation any more (Mertler and Vannatta, 2005). 
A forward multiple regression was conducted to determine which background 
variables were the best predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. Table 4 
presents the regression results. These results indicate mother's educational background, age, 
ethnicity, and employment status are the best predictors of attitudes toward women's 
78 
premarital sexuality, with an R 2 = .205, p < .001. Thus, this model accounted for 20.5% of 
variance in attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. Having a mother who is highly 
educated, being older, employed, and non-Turkish predicted more permissive attitudes 
toward women's premarital sex. Mother's education was the strongest predictor. 
Table 4. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Background 
Variables 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Mother's education .314* 
Age .194'* 
Ethnicity -. 169'* 
Employment status -. 156** 
Sexual orientation .093 
City of birth .078 
Total monthly family income -.054 
Number of children -.040 
Residential parmer -.019 
Father's educational background .094 
Social class -.096 
R .453 
R Square .205 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
To explore the effect of prior sexual experience on how background variables 
predict attitudes toward premarital sexuality, another forward multiple regression was 
conducted for women who did not have prior sexual experience. Table 5 presents the 
79 
regression results. These results show mother's educational background and ethnicity as the 
best predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, R 2 =.319, p < .001. 
Compared to the previous model, this model accounted for more (31.9%) of variance in 
attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. Having a mother with higher education and 
being non-Turkish correlated with more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital 
sex. Mother's education was again the strongest predictor, and its effect was stronger as 
compared to when all respondents are examined. 
Table 5. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Background 
Variables for Respondents with No Prior Sexual Experience 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Mother's educational background .488* 
Ethnicity -.281 * 
Age .162 
Sexual orientation .051 
City of birth -.001 
Income .093 
Number of children -.203 
Residential parmer -.010 
Employment status -. 128 
Father's educational background .065 
Social class -. 109 
R .565 
R Square .319 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
80 
Although another forward multiple regression was conducted for participants who 
had prior sexual experience, the regression revealed no significant predictors of attitudes 
toward women's premarital sexuality for this group. 
Relationships Between Attitudinal And Behavioral Variables And Attitudes Toward 
Women's Premarital Sexuality 
A forward multiple regression was conducted to determine which attitudinal and 
behavioral variables were the predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
Table 6 presents these regression results, which show only one predictor, sexual attitudes, 
R 2 = .393, p < .001. This model accounted for 39.3% of variance in attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality. Liberal sexual attitudes predicted more permissive attitudes 
toward women's premarital sex. 
Table 6. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal 
Variable's 
81 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Sexual attitudes 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org. 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political affiliation 
Personal religiosity 
Political religiosity 
Modem sexism 
Old-fashioned sexism 
.627* 
.080 
.070 
.026 
.055 
.046 
-.015 
-.079 
-.042 
-.077 
.041 
R .627 
R Square .393 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
Due to the overwhelmingly strong effect of sexual attitudes and its significant 
correlation to a number of other attitudinal and behavioral variables, a second test was 
conducted, which excluded sexual attitudes from the equation. Table 7 presents these 
regression results, which demonstrate that personal religiosity, political religiosity, and 
political participation are the variables most highly correlated with attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality, R 2 = .304, p < .001. This model accounted for less (30.4%) 
of the variance in attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality when compared to the 
previous regression. Respondents with higher rates of political participation and lower 
personal and political religiosity tended to be more permissive in their attitudes toward 
women's premarital sex. Overall, political religiosity was the best predictor. 
82 
Table 7. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Personal religiosity 
Political religiosity 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org. 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political affiliation 
Modem sexism 
Old-fashioned sexism 
-.278* 
-.322* 
.153'* 
.024 
.051 
.072 
.054 
-.040 
-.111 
.045 
R .552 
R Square .304 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
An additional forward multiple regression was conducted duplicating the regression 
presented in Table 7 for only those students who had prior sexual experience. This was done 
in order to include Self-sex Quality and Parmer-sex Quality as independent variables. As 
Table 8 demonstrates, modem sexism and attitudes toward social regulation are the best 
predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, R 2 =. 180, p < .001. This 
model accounts for much less (18%) of the variance in attitudes toward women's premarital 
83 
sexuality for participants who had prior sex, when compared to the previous regression. 
Modem sexist attitudes was the best predictor, with those who evidenced less modem 
sexism and more favoring attitudes toward social regulation being more permissive in their 
attitudes toward women's premarital sex. 
Table 8. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes for Participants who had Prior Sexual 
Experience 
Attitudes toward Women's 
Premarital Sexuality 
Modem sexism 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org. 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Political affiliation 
Personal religiosity 
Political religiosity 
Old-fashion sexism 
Self-sex quality 
Parmer-sex quality 
-.227* 
.172'* 
-.054 
.161 
-.022 
-.012 
.000 
-.127 
-.097 
-.062 
.033 
.018 
R .424 
R Square .180 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
84 
Relationships Between Attitudinal And Behavioral Variables, Background Variables, And 
Attitudes Toward Women's Premarital Sexuality 
To examine the combined effect of attitudinal and behavioral and background 
variables on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, and to assess which of the 
variables in this combined model were the strongest predictors, a forward multiple 
regression was conducted. Table 9 presents the results of this regression, and shows that 
sexual attitudes is the only significant predictor, R 2 = .390, p < .001. This model accounts 
for 39% of the variance in attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, with those with 
more liberal sexual attitudes holding more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital 
sex. 
85 
Table 9. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables and Background Variables 
Attitudes toward Women's 
Premarital Sexuality 
Sexual attitudes 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political affiliation 
Personal religiosity 
Political religiosity 
Modem sexism 
Old-fashion sexism 
Sexual orientation 
Age 
City of birth 
Ethnicity 
Total monthly family income 
Number of children 
Residential parmers 
Employment status 
Mother's educational background 
Father's educational background 
Social class 
.624* 
.080 
.076 
.068 
.085 
.053 
.103 
-.116 
.120 
-.085 
.086 
.083 
.106 
.085 
-.071 
.077 
.054 
.021 
-.026 
.146 
.101 
.032 
R .624 
R Square .390 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
Due to the overwhelmingly strong effect of sexual attitudes and its significant 
correlation with most of the attitudinal and behavioral variables and some of the 
86 
background variables, the regression in Table 9 was repeated, excluding sexual attitudes 
from the equation. Table 10 presents the results and shows that personal religiosity and 
mother's educational background are best predictors, R 2 = .262, p < .001. This model 
accounted for less (26.2%) of the variance in attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality 
when compared to the previous regression. Personal religiosity was the strongest predictor, 
followed by mother's education, with students with lower levels of personal religiosity and 
those whose mothers were highly educated demonstrating greater permissiveness in their 
attitudes toward women's premarital sex. 
87 
Table 10. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Attitudinal and 
Behavioral Variables and Background Variables Excluding Sexual Attitudes 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Personal religiosity 
Mother's educational background 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political affiliation 
Political religiosity 
Modem sexism 
Old-fashion sexism 
Sexual orientation 
Age 
City of birth 
Ethnicity 
Total monthly family income 
Number of children 
Residential parmers 
Employment status 
Father's educational background 
Social class 
-.402* 
.236* 
.102 
.052 
.070 
.091 
-.099 
-.170 
.-.151 
.006 
.080 
.074 
.052 
-.080 
.012 
.106 
-.078 
-.078 
-.053 
.089 
.032 
R .512 
R Square .262 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
An additional forward multiple regression was conducted duplicating the regression 
presented in Table 10 for only those students who had prior sexual experience. This was 
88 
done in order to include Self-sex Quality and Parmer-sex Quality as independent variables. 
As Table 11 demonstrates, modem sexism, attitudes toward social regulation, and sexual 
orientation are the best predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, R 2 = 
.268, p < .001. This model accounts for more of variance when compared to the previous 
regression, but less (26.8%) of variance when compared to the regression presented in 
Table 9. Sexual orientation was the best predictor, followed by modem sexism and attitudes 
toward social regulation, with those who were not strictly heterosexual, who evidenced less 
modem sexism and who had more favoring attitudes toward social regulation being more 
permissive in their attitudes toward women's premarital sex. 
89 
Table 11. Regression of Attitudes toward Women's Premarital Sexuality on Atfitudinal and 
Behavioral and Background Variables for Respondents with Prior Sexual Experience 
Excluding Sexual Attitudes 
Attitudes toward Women's Premarital 
Sexuality 
Modem sexism 
Sexual orientation 
Attitudes toward social regulation 
Political participation 
Interest in politics 
Attitudes toward women's org. 
Attitudes toward unpaid labor 
Political affiliation 
Personal religiosity 
Political religiosity 
Old-fashion sexism 
Age 
City of birth 
Ethnicity 
Total monthly family income 
Number of children 
Residential parmer 
Employment status 
Mother's educational background 
Father's educational background 
Social class 
Self-sex quality 
Parmer-sex quality 
-.314' 
.331' 
.289** 
-.003 
.111 
-.012 
.084 
-.072 
-.097 
-.047 
.014 
.074 
-.018 
.044 
-.073 
-.035 
-.144 
-.038 
-.069 
.014 
.029 
.038 
.106 
R .518 
R Square .268 
* p < 0.01; ** p < 0.05 
90 
Conclusions And Discussion 
The current research explored how attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality 
are affected by background and attitudinal and behavioral variables in a sample of Turkish 
female university students studying in Istanbul University Department of English Language 
and Literature. 
Background Variables 
Regression on the background variables revealed that mother's educational 
background, age, employment status, and ethnicity correlated with attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality, but not father's educational background , sexual orientation or 
social class. Accordingly, older, employed, non-Turkish participants whose mothers were 
better educated tended to have more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital 
sexuality. For participants who never had sex before, mother's education and ethnicity seem 
to be strong predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality while age and 
employment status loose their importance. 
As discussed in the review of the literature, one's attitudes and beliefs are the result 
of one's socialization (DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979). The strong effect of mothers' 
educational background seems to suggest that the family, more specifically mothers, play an 
important role in women's sexual socialization (Duggan and Hunter, 1995). On the other 
hand, previous research focused on the family as a cohesive whole (e.g. Herold and 
Goldwin, 1981; Langille and Curtis, 2002; Baker et. al., 1988). This study found no 
1 It should be noted that mother's and father's education are significantly correlated (r = .687, p < .001). 
91 
significant effect of fathers' education. Hence, the finding indicates that the family should be 
disaggregated to determine the specificity of the family's effect, especially regarding parental 
roles of the mother and the father. 
One might argue that better educated mothers' reactions to their daughters' sexual 
acts are different from less educated mothers, and that their language does not lead to 
inhibiting attitudes in their children as argued by Gagnon and Simon (1973) and Ehrhardt 
(1994). The higher education of mothers may also lead to a different, more permissive 
social code and ideology (DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979) that mothers pass onto 
their children, as well as to an increased ability to provide their children with sufficient, 
correct, and meaningful information about sex in contrast to Daniluck's (1998) observations 
of the average American families. It is thus likely that increased education decreases 
mothers' tendencies not to talk with their children about their sex-related body parts, hence 
reducing the probability that daughters are uncertain "... about ... the workings of their own 
bodies ..." (Daniluck, 1998, p. 32). This leads daughters to be more permissive. 
The significant effect of mother's education also supports Reiss' (1967) theory, 
which asserts that family is a key and direct determinant of attitudes toward premarital 
sexuality. Reiss' theory also suggests that courtship is another key determinant of these 
attitudes. The current study failed to confirm this: there was no significant effect of sex life 
quality. It should be mentioned that my literature review did not reveal any specific 
references to mother's educational status as a determinant of attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality. Past research focuses on the family as a whole and indicates that 
92 
variables related to the family (such as parental communication, parental monitoring, family 
conflict, and number of siblings and number of parents) correlate with attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality as well as premarital sexual behavior. 
Although ethnicity was a significant predictor of attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality in this research, little research was found with regard to ethnicity's 
effect on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality in the Turkish literature. Apparently, 
identifying oneself as Turkish is strongly related to restrictive attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality. It is possible that those who do not identify themselves as Turkish 
isolate themselves from the social pressures that inhibit and prohibit women's sexual 
activities. There are a number of possible explanations for the gap in the literature. One is 
that the literature on premarital sex is mostly done in the United states. This literature 
examines race (e.g. blacks and whites) but ignores ethnicity (e.g. German Americans and 
Irish Americans). It might be argued that, consciously or unconsciously, the U.S. underplays 
the importance of ethnicity in order to maintain the majority status of whites as a race to 
dominate, oppress, and exploit those constructed as minorities (e.g. blacks). Thus, it is 
unsurprising not to find many references to ethnicity in U.S. dominated sex research. 
Another explanation is that Turkey has been experiencing a tremendous amount of ethnic 
conflicts (and a civil war) between the Turkish government and Kurdish people. Hence, the 
issue of ethnicity in Turkey is highly loaded with political tensions. Combined with the lack 
of sex research, it is not surprising to find a gap in the Turkish scientific inquiry where the 
relationship between sex and ethnicity are ignored. 
93 
Another background variable that predicted attitudes toward women's premarital 
sexuality was age. The positive correlation between age and attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality is replicated in a number of previous studies, including DeLamater and 
MacCorquodale (1979) and Ozan et. al. (2005), while it conflicted with others, such as 
Lafuente and Valcarel (1984), Sakalli-Ugurlu and Glick (2003), and Muftuler-Bac (1999). 
The age range in this study was restricted. The sample was relatively younger and most 
students were between the ages of 18 and 23. Younger students tended to live with their 
parents or relatives. Hence, it might be argued that, in this age range, as students get older 
and move out of their family home, they are freed from the restrictive social influence of 
their families and exposed to more liberal social forces. 
Another effect was that of employment. One possible explanation for the positive 
effect of employment on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality is related to the shift 
of control during a woman's sexual development. It is possible that as one is employed and 
steps away from home, the restrictive effect of the family diminishes, opening the way for 
more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality for the students in this 
study. 
Attitudinal And Behavioral Variables 
Among atfitudinal and behavioral variables, only sexual attitudes predicted attitudes 
toward women's premarital sexuality. Sexually liberal participants in general tended to have 
more permissive attitudes, specifically toward women's premarital sexuality. However, when 
the overwhelmingly strong effect of sexual attitudes was excluded from the equation, 
94 
personal and political religiosity and political participation emerged as strong predictors. 
Participants who were high on political participation but low on personal and political 
religiosity tended to have more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
For those who had prior sexual experience, being low on modem sexism and having 
negative attitudes toward social regulation positively correlated with supportive attitudes 
toward premarital sexuality. Sex life quality, on the other hand, had no significant effect. 
This research confirmed previous American studies that implied a strong relationship 
between one's sexual attitudes in general and attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality 
(Reiss, 1960; DeLamater and MacCorquodale, 1979; Chitanum and Finchilescu, 2003). The 
finding is nevertheless significant: from a Western perspective, attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality are believed to be a dimension of the more general sexual attitudes. 
However, in the Turkish context, women's sexuality is defined in terms of marriage. 
Regardless of one's sexual attitudes, premarital sex for women is considered to be wrong or 
inappropriate (Pelin, 1999; Wasti and Cortine, 2002; Kayir, 2000; Aydin and Gulcat; Duyan 
and Duyan, 2005; Altinay, 2000). Hence, positive attitudes toward sexuality in general does 
not guarantee positive attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
The effect of both personal and political religiosity were apparent once sexual 
attitudes was excluded. While personal religiosity depicts how much one is involved in 
religion, political religiosity explores attitudes toward the relation between the secular 
Turkish democracy and the penetration of Islamic laws and dogmas into the political realm. 
The negative effect of religiosity on sexuality is well documented (e.g. Freud, [1928] 1989; 
95 
Linfield, 1960; Thomas, 1975; Bell, 1966; Herold and Goodwin, 1981; Jurich, 1984; 
Ilkkaracan, 2001; Arsel, 1997; Duyan, 2005). In addition religion, specifically Islam, is a 
crucial social force negatively affecting sexual norms and rules in the Turkish society, 
especially through its obsession with virginity. In short, participants who were affected more 
by the Islamic sexual taboos tended to have less permissive attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality. 
The effect of political participation instead of political affiliation was a surprising 
predictor of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. Although political affiliation was 
not a predictor of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality, this may well be because a 
large number of participants tended to be between middle to left-liberal on the political 
affiliation continuum (87.2%). Hence, the effect of political participation might indicate that 
in this relatively politically homogeneous sample, greater involvement in left-wing politics 
tends to generate more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. This 
interpretation is consistent with to the findings of Lafuente and Valcfircel (1984), McKelvey 
et. al. (1999), and Sakalli-Ugurlu and Glick (2003), all of whom found a relationship 
between political views and attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
The effects of religiosity and political participation were replaced by modem sexism 
and attitudes toward social regulation for participants who had prior sexual experience. 
Modem sexism depicts a set of attitudes that may not be perceived by the general 
population as sexist, but contains strong but less hostile elements of misogynist beliefs 
compared to old-fashioned sexism. As mentioned earlier, ambivalent sexism theory claims 
96 
that sexist attitudes toward women have a benevolent and a hostile component. Modem 
sexism is similar to benevolent sexism because it includes less apparent hostile attitudes 
against women. In contrast, old-fashioned sexism is similar to hostile sexism, in that both 
contain easily recognizable misogynist attitudes. The current findings seem to confirm 
Sakalli-Ugurlu and Glick's (2003) finding that benevolent sexism was related to negative 
premarital attitudes in women contrary to hostile sexism, which did not significantly predict 
negative premarital attitudes. 
Attitudes toward social regulation as a predictor of attitudes toward women's 
premarital sexuality was interesting in that those opposed to social regulation tended to be 
more permissive toward women's premarital sexuality. Attitudes toward social regulation 
depicts two concepts: attitudes toward governmental interference with businesses and 
attitudes toward ethnic and religious organizations. Both of these dimensions refer to left or 
right-wing attitudes of the participants. Supporting governmental interference and 
supporting ethnic or religious organizations are intrinsically leftist attitudes. Unfortunately, 
the question on ethnic and religious organizations was poorly worded in the survey. The 
poor wording resulted in two different readings of the same question, hence clouding any 
speculation on the effect of attitudes toward social regulation. Originally, this question was 
deployed as a means of examining participants' attitudes toward minorities. Supporting 
minorities such as Kurds (ethnic) or Alevis (religious) is a leftist attitude in the Turkish 
context. However, upon further review, it was observed that right-wing participants might 
have expressed positive attitudes toward this, as they would probably support oppressive 
97 
ethnic and religious organizations such as a fascist political party or an oppressive Sunni 
sect. 
Backound And Attitudinal And Behavioral Variables 
When all the variables are considered, sexual attitudes was the only predictor for 
attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. As one cotfid easily predict, those with 
liberal sexual attitudes tended to have permissive attitudes toward women's premarital 
sexuality. When this vafiable's strong effect was excluded from the equation, personal 
religiosity and mother's education emerged as the best predictors of the dependent variable. 
Less religious participants who had better educated mothers tended to be more permissive 
toward women's premarital sexuality. For participants who had prior sexual experience, 
modem sexism, political participation, attitudes toward social regulation, and sexual 
orientation were the best predictors of attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
Accordingly, in this group, less sexist non-heterosexual participants who had negative 
attitudes toward social regulation and who participated more in politics tended to have 
more permissive attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. 
The emergence of sexual orientation as a predictor in sexually experienced group 
(when background and attitudinal variables were combined) was unexpected. This was 
relatively hard to interpret, because it did not emerge as a predictor among background 
variables for participants who had prior sexual experience. The stability of this variable was 
questionable in that there were too few participants who reported bisexual or lesbian sexual 
orientation. 
98 
Limitations Of The Research 
This research is restricted by a number of limitations. First, the literature focusing on 
sexuality in Turkey is extremely scarce and mostly unavailable due to the physical location 
of the researcher. Because there was a lack of previous sex research in Turkey, this study 
had to depend for the most part on the U.S. literature. However, the efficacy of such an 
approach is questionable due to difficulties in interpreting the differences and similarities 
accross cultures. 
Second, in order to keep the survey as short as possible, some important variables 
were not measured. Such variables included parents' and peers' attitudes towards women's 
premarital sexuality, nature of sexual education received by the participant (formal to 
informal), source of sexual education (schools, parents, peers, media, etc.), feminist 
attitudes, and social desirability. Although data were obtained about parents' educational 
background, no data was collected regarding parental attitudes. As such, interpretations on 
mother's education were based on assumptions instead of empirical data. The literature 
reveals that peers' and parents' attitudes affect attitudes toward women's premarital 
sexuality. Without data on the source and the nature of sexual education and peers' and 
parents' attitudes toward premarital sex, the research cannot obtain a more complete picture 
of what directly affects one's attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. The source of 
sexual education would disclose the current state of Turkish formal sex education, which is 
believed to be nonexistent. Data on participants' feminist attitudes would be complementary 
to the results obtained through the variables of modem and old-fashioned sexism. Although 
99 
these variables measure how participants perceive gender, they do not give insight of how 
they understand the tensions between genders. Finally, social desirability as a control 
variable would make it possible to eliminate this important confounding variable. 
The use of survey as the only methodology, although mandatory due to the physical 
location of the researcher, was limiting. Although survey as a methodology has its own 
strengths, it seems to reflect the patriarchal culture's obsession with numbers, and the 
imposition of the researcher's own definitions on the participants (Reinharz, 1992). In 
contrast, interviewing (which has its own problems as well) as a complementary qualitative 
method to survey would offer comprehensive depth of understanding and flexibility through 
discussion, clarification, and probing (Babbie, 2004). 
A minor problem was that liberalism was not clearly explained in the survey. 
Although it clearly measured left-wing - right-wing political views (see Table 1), it is likely 
that some participants were misled, as they possibly confused economical liberalism (laissez- 
fake) with social liberalism (being open-minded). 
Finally, the non-random nature of the sample was restrictive: it was generalizable 
only to "female undergraduate students of Istanbul University Department of Language and 
Literature", instead of the general Turkish population. Hence, implications of the research 
findings are limited, and preliminary and exploratory in nature. 
Practical And Policy Implications 
One of the underlying assumptions of this research was that, the development of 
sexuality progresses from birth to death and that premarital sexuality is an important part of 
lOO 
this process, even though it might be experienced problematically due to the patriarchal 
nature of the society. The prohibition of premarital sexuality blocks many of the physical 
and psychological aspects of sexual development, limiting women's sexual choices on the 
basis of theoretical and obsolete assumption instead of actual sex-play/practice. 
The findings indicate that, in order to ease the taboos related to women's premarital 
sex in Turkey, more public attention is needed to increase awareness and information on 
sexuality, especially among those of Turkish ethnic background who seemed to be affected 
more by sexual taboos. Policies need to be implemented in order to increase overall 
education levels of mothers, who are significantly less educated than fathers. Women's 
employment also need to be better promoted, as it seems to decrease the negative effects of 
families, peers, and school on attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. Religion is an 
important means of control of premarital sex, and although it is a very sensitive issue in 
Turkey, its misogynist assumptions need to be uncovered and brought under public 
scrutiny. On the other hand, heterosexism negatively affected participants' attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality, in that strictly heterosexual participants had less permissive 
attitudes toward women's premarital sexuality. It seems that heterosexism works hand in 
hand with other social forces in Turkish society in limiting women's freedom of sexual 
choices. Although there are some Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) 
organizations in Turkey, they are marginalized. Apart from their empowering functions 
among the Turkish LGBT communities, they need to be further supported as a means of 
fighting the oppressive impact of compulsory heterosexuality on women's sexual lives. 
101 
Although old-fashioned sexism seemed to have less effect on attitudes toward 
women's premarital sexuality in this sample, modem sexist attitudes seem to affect even this 
relatively liberal left-wing highly educated population. Such sexist attitudes need to be 
brought under public scrutiny as they have the potential to maim the future feminist 
straggles in Turkey. 
102 
APPENDICES 
Appendix A- Turkish Survey 
103 
104 
105 
106 
107 
108 
109 
110 
111 
112 
113 
114 
Appendix B - English Survey 
115 
116 
117 
118 
119 
120 
121 
122 
123 
124 
125 
126 
Appendix C - [.. Department Letter 
127 
128 
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